China Coronavirus: Death toll climbs to 2,118, but new cases significantly dip

China’s National Health Commission reported on Thursday said at least 114 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as of the end of Wednesday, bringing to at least 2,118 the number of fatalities nationwide.

China’s central Hubei province had 349 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, down from 1,693 a day earlier and lowest since Jan. 25 bringing the total to 74,576. The death toll rose by 108, down from 132 the previous day.

The drop, the largest in almost a month, came after Chinese authorities changed their methodology for counting cases in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, to only include those confirmed through genetic testing.

The new figures include subtracting 279 cases in the province that were not confirmed, a larger-than-usual number. No explanation was given. Excluding the deductions, the number of new cases on Wednesday stood at 628, still a large drop.

China is struggling to get its economy back on track after imposing severe travel restrictions to contain a virus that emerged in the central province of Hubei late last year.

Beyond mainland China, six people have died from the disease, and governments around the world are trying to prevent it from spreading into a global pandemic.

Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd said on Thursday it will ground the equivalent of 18 planes, freeze recruitment and ask its 30,000 staff to use up annual leave as it grapples with falling demand from Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Scientists published on Wednesday preliminary findings in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggested the virus spreads easily, including through patients who have no symptoms.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Greg Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study.

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