China’s National Health Commission on Monday reported that the novel coronavirus had claimed 150 more lives with all except one fatality reported from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, AFP reported. Monday’s toll is a sizeable increase from the 97 deaths reported on Sunday. The toll in China from the coronavirus is now 2,592.

The Chinese National Health Commission also confirmed 409 new cases in the country with most of them being in Hubei. This brought the total number of confirmed cases in China to 77,150, according to The Guardian.

Four Chinese provinces – Shanxi, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Guangdong – lowered their emergency response measures for the virus on Monday. Yunnan and Guizhou reduced their measures from level one to level three, while Shanxi and Guangdong brought it down to level two, reported Reuters. China has a four-level response system for their public health emergencies with the first level being the most serious.

China’s President Xi Jinping on Sunday described the epidemic as the country’s “largest public health emergency” since its founding. “It has the fastest transmission, widest range of infection and has been the most difficult to prevent and control,” Xi said during a meeting on containing the epidemic. He added that the epidemic was still “severe and complex” and containing it has been the most difficult part. “The outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia will inevitably have a relatively big impact on the economy and society,” he said. “For us, this is a crisis and is also a big test.”

On Sunday, a 29-year-old doctor died after she contracted the virus while treating patients at a hospital in China’s worst-hit Wuhan city, increasing the toll of medical staff to 10. Xia Sisi, a gastroenterology physician was infected while working at Wuhan’s Union Jiangbei Hospital. She was admitted to the hospital on January 19 and was later moved to Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University on February 7 after her condition became worse.

South Korea

Meanwhile, South Korea has reported 161 more coronavirus cases on Monday, which took the number of infected to 763 – the highest outside China. There has been a rapid upsurge of cases in the country since a series of infections were reported among those belonging to a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu, reported AFP.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday raised his country’s virus alert to the highest “red” level. This was reportedly done to strengthen his administration’s response to combat the outbreak. Kindergarten and school holidays were extended by a week across the country. South Korea has also planned to enforce a stricter two-week monitoring of arrivals from China.

Meanwhile, a third passenger has died after contracting coronavirus on the British-flagged cruise ship Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined at a port in Japan. The country’s health ministry identified the victim as a Japanese man in his 80s who was also ailing from other illnesses. The ministry’s statement added that he was taken to a local hospital after testing positive for the virus. The cause of his death has been stated as pneumonia.

On Sunday, four Indian crew members on board the ship had tested positive. A total of 12 Indians have now tested positive for COVID-19 on board the ship. All passengers who have tested negative for the virus have now been allowed to deboard the ship. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said around 1,000 passengers and crew will be left on board the vessel after all others have disembarked.