Some 242 deaths from the new coronavirus were recorded in the Chinese province of Hubei on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the outbreak.
There was also a huge increase in the number of cases, with 14,840 people diagnosed with Covid-19.
Hubei has started using a broader definition to diagnose people, which accounts for most of the rise in cases.
China sacked two top officials in Hubei province hours after the new figures were revealed.
Until Wednesday’s increases, the number of people with the virus in Hubei, where the outbreak emerged, was stabilizing.
But the new cases and deaths in the province have pushed the national death toll above 1,350 with almost 60,000 infections in total.
Meanwhile Japan has announced its first coronavirus death – a woman in her 80s who lived in Kanagawa, south-west of Tokyo. It is the third death outside mainland China, following one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
The woman’s diagnosis was confirmed after her death and she had no obvious link to China’s Hubei province, Japanese media reported.
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