BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS, XINHUA) - The official Chinese death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose on Friday (Feb 7) to 636, with the government saying total infections had climbed past 31,000.
The toll was raised by 73 new deaths from the epidemic, the National Health Commission said in its daily update. Out of the total rise in the toll, central Hubei province - epicentre of the outbreak - reported 69 deaths, including 64 in the provincial capital Wuhan.
Another 3,143 new cases of infection were confirmed, bringing total infections in the country thus far to 31,161, it said. More than 4,800 of those people were in serious condition.
The majority of the infections were in Hubei province, which confirmed another 2,447 new cases, taking its total to 22,112.
A total of 1,540 patients infected with the virus across the country had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Thursday, it said. Those discharged included 387 people who walked out of hospitals after recovery on Thursday.
The latest toll came soon after the confirmation of the death of a Chinese doctor who had tried to warn the world about the new coronavirus.
Dr Li Wenliang, 34, was an ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the outbreak. He and seven others were reprimanded by Wuhan police last month for spreading "illegal and false" information about the coronavirus.
Dr Li had told a group of doctors on Chinese social media about seven cases he saw and posted a picture of a test result in an effort to help other doctors.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that it was too early to say that China's coronavirus outbreak was peaking, but noted that the country had recorded its first day of a drop in the number of new infections.
Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergencies expert, said it was very difficult to make predictions on the course of the disease first reported in the central city of Wuhan in late December, noting: "We are still in the middle of an intense outbreak.
"There are cycles of transmission, and we may see those cases increase in the coming days. But at least for the moment, things are stable," he told a news conference.
"But 4,000 cases or nearly, 3,700 coronavirus cases confirmed in a single day, is nothing to celebrate and is certainly still a great worry," he said.