The toll in the coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 2,233 on Friday after 115 more people died in Hubei province, AFP reported. However, the numbers still confirmed a downward trend which the World Health Organization has called encouraging.

The Hubei health commission said it had counted 411 new cases of the virus in the province, with 319 in Wuhan and the rest spread out across several other cities.

Authorities said they have once again changed the method of counting patients with the novel coronavirus and will now include only those diagnosed by laboratory tests. They changed their criteria for counting cases twice in the past week, a move that could muddle statistics and complicate efforts to track the spread of the virus.

Speaking in Geneva, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the apparent slowdown in Chinese infections but warned the flu-like virus could still spread rapidly in China and beyond. “We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” he added.

So far, 25 other countries have reported 1,076 cases to the WHO. While that was very low compared to 75,000-plus cases in China, Tedros said: “That may not stay the same for long”.

South Korea has 104 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus, and reported its first death. The mayor of Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city, urged residents to stay indoors after a spike in infections linked to a church congregation.

More coronavirus cases in Iran

Iranian health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur said three more people had tested positive for the virus. “Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Qom and one person in Arak, bringing the total of confirmed cases to five in Iran,” Jahanpur said.

Two Iranians died in hospital after testing positive in Qom, the head of the city’s University of Medical Sciences said on Wednesday. They were the first confirmed deaths from the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19 in the Middle East.

None of the people who were diagnosed with coronavirus were known to have traveled to China or were in contact with anyone who had gone there, Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, the head of the center for the management of communicable diseases at Iran’s ministry of health said.

Iran will hold parliamentary elections on Friday.

Iraqi Airways has suspended flight service to neighboring Iran as a protective measure against the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, Japan reported the deaths of two elderly passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship on Thursday, the first fatalities from aboard the ship where more than 630 cases account for the biggest cluster of infection outside China. The British-flagged cruise ship arrived in Yokohama on February 3 with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was traced to a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong.

The Indian Embassy in Tokyo said the condition of eight Indians who tested positive for the virus was improving. There were 138 Indians, including six passengers and 132 crew members, on the ship.

The embassy added that no Indian national on board the ship has been infected with the virus since Thursday. “Indian embassy in Tokyo working with the Japanese authorities and ship management company for safe return of the Indians,” it said.

Hundreds of Japanese and foreign passengers were set to disembark the ship on Friday. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had on Thursday said the disembarkation process has started and will continue for a few days.

Israel confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on Friday, AFP reported.