New COVID-19 Cases Surge 10-Fold in Hubei Province

The number of cases of COVID-19 has surged nearly 10-fold from the previous day in China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The number of new deaths also increased dramatically, to 242.

Officials explained the uptick Thursday by saying they had reclassified how they were diagnosing and counting cases of COVID-19. Health officials reported 14,840 new cases—reversing several days of declines in official new diagnoses in the province.

The new classification system of COVID-19 was meant to ensure that “patients can receive standardized treatment according to confirmed cases as early as possible to further improve the success rate of treatment,” according to the Hubei Province Health Commission.

The statement hinted that Hubei may have previously been under-counting the number of official cases of the coronavirus, adding that the change was “in order to be consistent with the classification of case diagnosis issued by other provinces across the country.”

On Wednesday, officials in Hubei had reported just over 1,600 new cases—the lowest figure since the beginning of February. Experts said the declines were promising signals that China’s lockdown of tens of millions of people may be working to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

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Hubei, which includes the city of Wuhan—where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, has more than 80% of official cases worldwide.

There are now more than 60,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with all but about 500 in mainland China. There have been 1,367 deaths—with 1,310 of them in Hubei province.

Write to Michael Zennie at michael.zennie@time.com.

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