China reports 394 new cases of coronavirus, lowest since Jan. 23

BEIJING (Reuters) – Mainland China reported on Thursday the lowest number of confirmed cases of a new coronavirus since late January, partly due to a change in diagnostic criteria for patients in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

China had 394 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the National Health Commission said, sharply down from 1,749 cases a day earlier and the lowest since Jan. 23.

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 74,576.

Previously, suspected cases in the central province of Hubei that showed signs of pneumonia in chest X-rays but did not test positive for genetic traces of the coronavirus were counted as confirmed cases.

On Wednesday, China’s health authority removed that category of clinically diagnosed cases from its criteria for confirmed cases.

Chest X-rays were previously used in Hubei to help accelerate the process of diagnosis. The health authority said on Wednesday that nucleic acid tests to identify the presence of the virus were preferred.

Hubei, which accounts for most of the infections, saw a sharp drop in confirmed cases on Wednesday, after the change in diagnostic criteria led to the subtraction of some previously confirmed cases from the tally.

Hubei had 349 new confirmed cases reported on Wednesday, down from 1,693 on Tuesday and the lowest since Jan. 25.

Excluding Hubei, the number of new confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 45, down from 56 a day earlier and falling for the 16th consecutive day.

Provinces, regions and municipalities that reported zero confirmed cases on Wednesday included Liaoning, Fujian, Shanxi, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guizhou, Ningxi, Inner Mongolia and Qinghai.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China has reached 2,118 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 114 from the previous day.

Hubei reported 108 new deaths on Wednesday, 88 of them in the locked-down provincial capital of Wuhan.

A total of 1,585 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus, accounting for almost 75% of all mainland fatalities.

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