The death toll from the novel coronavirus surged past 800 in mainland China on Sunday, overtaking global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.
According to official figures about 89 more people dying — most in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak — the toll is now higher than the 774 killed worldwide by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome,
This data is coming after the World Health Organization said the outbreak appeared to be stabilising.
The WHO had said the last four days had witnessed “some stabilising” in Hubei, but warned the figures can still “shoot up”.
Almost 37,200 people in China have now been infected by the virus, believed to have emerged late last year in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where residents are struggling to get daily supplies because of sweeping transport restrictions and instructions to stay inside.
According to AFP, the epidemic has prompted the government to lock down whole cities as anger mounts over its handling of the crisis — especially after a whistleblowing doctor fell victim to the virus.
Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the “stable period” of the outbreak “may reflect the impact of the control measures.”
While the death toll has climbed steadily, new cases have declined since Wednesday’s single-day peak of nearly 3,900 people nationwide.
On Sunday, the number of new cases was just over 2,600. Millions of people are under lockdown in Hubei in a bid to stop the virus spreading.
China drew international condemnation for covering up cases during the SARS outbreak, whereas the measures it has taken this time have been praised by the WHO.
But anger erupted on social media after the death of a Wuhan doctor who police silenced when he flagged the threat of an emerging virus in December.
The doctor, 34, died early Friday, after contracting the virus from a patient.
Chinese academics were among those angered by his death, with at least two open letters posted on social media demanding more freedoms.
The first foreign victim in China was confirmed this week when an American diagnosed with the virus died in Wuhan.
The only fatalities outside the mainland have been a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China while major airlines have suspended flights.
Air China announced Saturday it would cancel some of its flights to the US including from Beijing to New York and Washington.
Sixty-four people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan’s coast have tested positive, with all passengers told to stay inside their cabins to prevent further infection.