China coronavirus death toll exceeds 1,600

France reported the first fatality from the new coronavirus outside Asia

CHINA-HEALTH/ A worker takes body temperature measurement of a passenger inside a vehicle following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China | Reuters

The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,600 on Sunday after 139 more people died in hard-hit Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. In its daily update, the province's health commission also reported 1,843 fresh cases—the third day that reported new infections declined in the province.

At least 1,662 people have now died from the outbreak that first emerged in Hubei's capital, Wuhan, in December and spiralled into a nationwide epidemic. More than 68,000 people have now been infected, with most deaths occurring in Hubei.

The province added more than 14,000 cases in a single day this week after officials there changed their criteria for counting cases to include people clinically diagnosed through lung imaging, in addition to those with a positive lab test result. The revision added nearly 15,000 patients to Hubei's tally on Thursday, with the World Health Organization noting that cases going back weeks were retroactively counted.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the body has asked China for details on how diagnoses were being made. France reported the first fatality from the new coronavirus outside Asia on Saturday, fuelling global concerns about the epidemic.

China's central bank said Saturday that to control the outbreak spreading, used banknotes were being disinfected and stored for up to 14 days before they are put back into circulation.