The Chinese coronavirus death toll rose over 20 percent on Wednesday after China eased its diagnostic criteria, with nearly 15,000 new cases and 242 new deaths recorded in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The government had previously been only confirming cases in individuals who tested positive for the virus, but with testing kits in short supply amid the outbreak, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that the government was now simply relying on diagnoses from doctors and health professionals in order to treat patients faster.
The new standard saw a drastic uptick in cases, reversing reports that the outbreak was declining after 2,015 new cases were counted on Tuesday, down from 3,900 last week. The new numbers brought the death toll to over 1,300 — still a far lower mortality rate than the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
Beijing responded to the news by firing Jiang Chaoliang, the party secretary of Hubei Province, over the handling of the situation, and replacing him with Ying Yong, the mayor of Shanghai. Hubei has come under fire in China for playing down initial reports of the virus, and retroactively implementing a lockdown after cases began to rise.
“Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” Trump tweeted.
There have been 14 reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S., while one U.S. citizen has died in Wuhan after being infected. Last month, the Trump administration instituted a temporary ban on foreign nationals who have recently visited China from entering the U.S., while also mandating 14-day quarantines for any U.S. citizen or their family returning from Hubei province, the center of the outbreak.