China on Thursday reported 254 new daily deaths and a spike in daily virus cases of 15,152, after new methodology was applied in the hardest-hit province of Hubei as to how cases are categorized.
Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong succeeded Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party chief in the beleaguered province, the Xinhua state news agency reported, while Wang Zhonglin took over from Ma Guoqiang as the party secretary in Wuhan.
Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), made the remarks during an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Thursday morning, following Hubei Province's report of 14,840 new cases including 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases of COVID-19 as of midnight on Wednesday.
Daily declines in new cases in Hubei earlier this week helped push US equity markets to record highs on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, more than 300 health experts from around the world met at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to pool their knowledge about the new COVID-19 disease and decide which research should receive priority funding in a bid to stop the outbreak.
"It has spread to other places where it's the beginning of the outbreak", Dale Fisher, head of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by the World Health Organization, said in an interview in Singapore.
The patient, who was not identified, was among a group of people who returned from China on a State Department chartered flight, the agency said.
He told Sky News: "The true number of cases in China is somewhere between 10 times and perhaps 25 times, in some estimates, the official case total".
It is suspected to have come from a market that illegally traded wildlife in Hubei province's capital of Wuhan in December.
"I don't think the numbers are necessarily manipulated for political purposes, but the numbers themselves may not be so trustworthy", Yun told reporters.
"Previously, we mainly relied on nucleic acid tests to confirm whether a patient is infected with the virus". Hubei's two top health officials were fired earlier this week.
The public has widely criticized local officials for failing to respond quickly and decisively to the new virus.
The change in counting method will renew concern over the effectiveness the tests now used to identify stricken patients globally, and raise questions over the true scale of the outbreak that has killed more than 1,300 people, all but two on mainland China. Wuhan residents said hospitals were overcrowded and lacked sufficient medical supplies.
The sudden jump in new cases raises questions about China's commitment to transparency, said Victor Shih, a specialist in Chinese politics at the School of Global Policy & Strategy at UC San Diego.
"Will they be full partners in surveillance and public health response?", he said.
Speaking to TRT World Now, he warned "perhaps we might have more cases in the United Kingdom than are currently on the official list".
The ship spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.
"In Singapore, we are at the beginning of the outbreak".
A cruise ship turned away by five countries over fears that someone on board has the coronavirus has docked in Cambodia after two weeks at sea.