The death toll from the coronavirus in mainland China passed 2,000 on Wednesday even though the number of new cases fell for a second consecutive day.
China’s National Health Commission reported 1,749 new confirmed cases of the virus, known officially as Covid-19, the lowest daily rise since January 29, while Hubei province – the centre of the outbreak –reported the lowest number of new infections since February 11.
New cases of the virus excluding Hubei have now fallen for 15 straight days. The number of new infections outside of the Chinese province totalled 56 on February 18.
However, Iran's health ministry had preliminary results testing positive for two people in Qom, the first two cases in the country.
The total number of confirmed cases in China stands at over 74,000 with the majority of infections occurring in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan.
The number of deaths in China's central Hubei province from Covid-19 infections had risen by 132 to 1,921 as of Tuesday, the province's health commission said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
There had been a further 1,693 cases detected in Hubei taking the total in the province to 61,682.
The head of a leading hospital in Wuhan died of the disease on Tuesday, the seventh health worker to have succumbed to COVID-19.
The increase comes even as the city of 11 million people is still on lockdown.
Chinese authorities have continued to increase containment measures in the worst-hit city.
Hubei province will now begin checking the records of all fever patients who have visited doctors since January 20, and people who have bought over-the-counter cough and fever medications at both brick-and-mortar and online drug stores.
Hong Kong recorded its second death from the 62 confirmed cases in the city by the new coronavirus on Wednesday.
Chinese officials have said the apparent slowdown in infection rates is evidence the flu-like virus is being brought under control by their measures.
Global health officials say it is still too early to predict how the epidemic will play out.
The World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme chief, Mike Ryan, said China had success with “putting out the fire” first in Hubei and ensuring that people returning to Beijing from the Lunar New Year holiday were monitored.
“Right now, the strategic and tactical approach in China is the correct one,” Mr Ryan said.
There have been 92 human-to-human coronavirus cases in 12 countries outside of China but the WHO does not have the data to make comparisons with China.
The WHO's Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organisation had not seen sustained local transmissions except in specific cases like the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
The cruise ship has been quarantined in Yokohama and seen the largest cluster of sustained infections outside of China with more than 540 out of 3,700 passengers and crew testing positive.
Around 500 passengers were beginning to disembark on Wednesday, although those sharing a room with people testing positive would have to remain on board longer, Japanese media and officials said.
Many of those infected have already been transferred to hospitals.
Despite global concerns about the economic impact of the disease, Zhang Ming, China’s ambassador to the EU, said in a briefing in Brussels on Tuesday this would be “limited, short-term and manageable” and that Beijing had enough resources to step in if needed.
In China, state television quoted President Xi Jinping as saying China could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic.
However, Britain’s biggest car-maker, Jaguar Land Rover, has had to fly Chinese-manufactured parts in suitcases to Britain to maintain production and could run out after two weeks.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the economy there was in an emergency situation and required stimulus as the epidemic had disrupted demand for South Korean goods such as cars, computer chips and smartphones.
Japan and Singapore seem to be on the brink of recession according to financial data.
Russia announced it shall suspend entry of Chinese citizens to its territory starting from February 20, Russian authorities in charge of coronavirus prevention said on Tuesday.