Hopes for a slowdown in the spread of the novel coronavirus were dashed Friday as the number of new cases rose in China, and outbreaks worsened in Japan and South Korea.
Authorities in China’s Hubei province confirmed an additional 411 cases of the virus Thursday morning, 62 more than the previous day, taking the total number of cases at the epicenter of the outbreak to 62,442.
Later Thursday, provincial authorities upgraded that figure to 631, after changing the criteria to include figures from a prison in the region.
There are an additional 14,000 or so cases outside Hubei, with the majority in other parts of mainland China.
The death toll from the outbreak now stands at 2,249, after more deaths in mainland China Thursday, including 115 in Hubei, seven more than the previous day.
More than 42,000 patients remain hospitalized across Hubei, including 2,018 in a critical condition. So far, 11,788 patients have been treated and discharged since the outbreak began.
On Thursday, the Jiangxia District No. 1 Hospital in Wuhan confirmed that another doctor – Peng Yinhua – died of the novel coronavirus after treating patients. Dr. Peng’s death prompted grief on social media after local newspapers reported the 29-year-old delayed his marriage because of the epidemic.
Chinese officials revealed that six doctors had died and more than 3,000 hospital staff had been infected with the virus, among whom 1,716 had been confirmed by nucleic acid tests as of February 11.
Meanwhile, fears are growing of self-sustaining epidemics elsewhere in Asia.
Outside China, the largest coronavirus outbreaks have been in South Korea and Japan, where hundreds of people were infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which began disembarking passengers this week from Yokohama Bay.
The number of cases in South Korea has soared, from 28 a week ago to at least 204 as of Friday afternoon. Two patients who have been diagnosed with coronavirus have died in the country, where the outbreak is centered around the southern city of Daegu.
Among the new cases, most are linked to the Shincheonji group. South Korean authorities Thursday were seeking to question more than 1,000 members of the religious group who attended a service with one of the recently confirmed cases.
Daegu’s mayor asked the congregation and their family members to self-quarantine at home.
Three other new cases connected to Daegu involved members of the military.
Medical teams have been dispatched to the city, where they will test people without overseas travel history or relation to other confirmed cases. Until now, tests have only been conducted on cases with recent travel history to China, Hong Kong, and Macao, or on people showing suspicious symptoms of the virus after being in contact with confirmed cases.
On Friday, the South Korean government designated Daegu and neighboring Cheongdo as “special management areas” for infectious disease. Meanwhile, South Korea’s military administration temporarily suspended drafting soldiers from Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province.