BEIJING: The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic rose more than 1,500 on Saturday after 139 more people died in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The province’s health commission also reported 2,420 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, about half of the previous day’s number.
At least 1,519 people have died from the outbreak that first emerged in the capital of Hubei, Wuhan, in December and became a national epidemic a month later.
More than 66,000 people have been infected, and most of the deaths occurred in Hubei.
The scale of the epidemic increased this week after authorities in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases, adding thousands of new patients to their account.
Cases “clinically diagnosed” through lung images are now counted in addition to those that have been positive in laboratory tests.
The review added nearly 15,000 patients to the Hubei count on Thursday, and the World Health Organization noted that cases dating back weeks were counted retroactively. There were more than 4,800 cases reported in Hubei on Friday.
Authorities said 1,716 medical workers were infected during the outbreak, and six died from the disease.
Most infections among health workers occurred in the capital of Hubei, Wuhan, where many lacked masks and adequate equipment to protect themselves in hospitals that deal with a flood of patients.
The somber figures occur a week after the pain and public anger erupted at the death of a complaining doctor who had been rebuked and silenced by police in Wuhan after giving the alarm about the virus in December.