China's COVID-19 death toll surges past 2,000

09:04 | 19/02/2020

The death toll from China's new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday (Feb 19) after 136 more people died, with the number of new cases falling for a second straight day, according to the National Health Commission.

chinas covid 19 death toll surges past 2000
A woman wearing a protective face mask cycles along a street in Shanghai on Feb 18, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Noel Celis)

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 74,185.

The death toll rose to 2,004, with most of the deaths in central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic.

In its daily update, the National Health Commission reported 1,749 new cases of people infected with the virus nationwide, the lowest number of new cases this month.

The new infections were overwhelmingly in Hubei.

Outside the epicentre, there were only 56 new cases reported, falling for the 15th day in a row.

A study released by Chinese officials said most patients have mild cases of the illness, and health officials have described the slowing numbers as an indication that the outbreak is under control.

President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with the British prime minister, said China's measures were achieving "visible progress", according to state media on Tuesday.

However, the World Health Organization has cautioned that it is too early to tell if the decline will continue.

On Tuesday the director of a hospital in the central Hubei city of Wuhan became the seventh medical worker to succumb to the COVID-19 illness.

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