Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei say 254 more people have died in the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,300 people since December.
Hubei extended to the entire province the decision to quarantine residential communities or buildings where new patients are reported with the virus after 13,000 individuals had a fever in Huanggang, a city bordering Wuhan and the second most affected by the respiratory disease.
But he added that the apparent stabilisation in the number of new cases in China and the slower spread of cases outside Hubei province - where the virus first emerged - was reassuring. Hundreds of infections have been reported in more than 20 countries, but only two people have died from COVID-19 outside of China to date.
The reported number of new cases of the disease wavered but showed a downward trend, Mi said.
The case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people - without having been in China - has raised fears of a new phase of contagion overseas.
"This outbreak could still go in any direction", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.
Tests have been taking place to see whether antiviral drugs used to treat HIV are effective against the coronavirus - however, results are only expected in a few weeks.
Hospital Wuhan City Hubei Province China while the crisis continued to develop yesterday
As Beijing scrambles to contain the virus, the number of people infected on a cruise ship off Japan's coast rose to 174 - the biggest cluster outside the Chinese mainland. A total of 1,310 deaths have been reported from Hubei.
Thailand refused to allow the Westerdam to dock this week after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam over virus concerns.
"This morning, just seeing land was such a breathtaking moment", Angela Jones, an American tourist on the ship, told Reuters.
On board another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, 44 more people have tested positive for COVID-19. "I thought: Is this real?"
United Airlines said it would extend cancellations of all USA flights to China through late April, meaning all US passenger carriers flying to China had now cancelled flights into late April.
In Spain, organisers of the world's top mobile telecommunications trade fair, the World Mobile Congress, said the event would be cancelled following an exodus of industry heavyweights over coronavirus fears.
The Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, set for Shanghai on April 19, was postponed, as was Singapore's rugby sevens tournament scheduled for April 11-12, a source said.