The toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 on February 18 after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission.
Nearly 72,500 people nationwide have been infected by the new COVID-19 strain of the virus, which first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic.
There were 1,886 new cases reported Tuesday — a decline on Monday’s figure, and the lowest single-day figure of new cases so far this month.
Most of the deaths were in Hubei province, the hard-hit epicentre of the outbreak, with five reported elsewhere in the country. Hubei has been locked down to try to contain the virus, with tens of millions of people placed under effective quarantine in the province.
The number of new cases reported outside Hubei province was just 79, down from 890 on February 4. It marks the lowest number of new cases outside the virus-struck province since January 23.
China’s national health authority has said the declining numbers are a sign that the outbreak is under control.
However, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the trend “must be interpreted very cautiously”. “Trends can change as new populations are affected. It is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” he told reporters on Monday.
Chinese health officials have urged patients who recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill. Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from the National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.
More than 12,000 people have recovered and been discharged, according to health commission figures.