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Death toll from coronavirus in China nears 1,400

Last Updated Feb 13, 2020 at 10:34 pm EST

Patients infected with the novel coronavirus are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 5, 2020. Xiong Qi/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

China on Friday reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new virus, as the death toll neared 1,400.

The National Health Commission said 121 more people had died and there were 5,090 new confirmed cases.

The number of reported cases has been rising more quickly after the hardest-hit province changed its method of counting them Thursday. There are now 63,851 confirmed cases in mainland China, of which 1,380 have died.

Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis and before they have been confirmed by lab tests. Of the 5,090 new cases, 3,095 fell into that category.

The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 as much as a revised methodology.

China’s health commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases in which the patient has pneumonia so they can be treated more quickly and reduce the likelihood of more serious illness or death. It was also seen as a reflection of a chaotic crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples.

“Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

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