Coronavirus infections skyrocket in China

The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak has spiked to almost 1,500 with 121 new fatalities reported mostly from the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection jumped to almost 65,000, health officials said on Friday.

The announcement of the new death toll comes after China said Wednesday that the number of new cases had slowed for a second consecutive day.

"So this increase that you've all seen in the last 24 hours is largely down to a change in how cases are being diagnosed and reported", Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said Thursday.

He said the Geneva-based United Nations health agency was seeking "further clarity" from China about recent updates to its case definition and reporting protocol for the coronavirus disease outbreak.

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He said that other parts of China, however, would still need to wait for cases to be confirmed in laboratories before they could be officially counted.

Hubei authorities had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process. The NHC did not account for a discrepancy of one case, as it had reported that the total accumulated number as of Tuesday was 44,653.

The village of Son Lai in Vinh Phuc province was quarantined after Vietnam's 16th case was confirmed in a 50-year-old man.

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Japan reported its first death Thursday. The ship has been linked to 218 cases, making it the largest cluster outside of China. Health authorities said they will try to test people for infection, starting with those who are medically frail, and let them off the ship before Wednesday.

Passengers leave MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, after it docks in Sihanoukville. The moves followed the dismissals this week of two leaders of the provincial health commission and reports from state media about a slew of others expelled from the party for missteps related to the epidemic.

The Westerdam was unwelcome elsewhere even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the COVID-19 illness had been confirmed among its passengers and crew.

Prime Minister Hun Sen greeted the passengers with handshakes and bouquets as they stepped off the ship and boarded a bus.

A CCTV reporter stands near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, February 13, 2020, in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

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