China reports 5,090 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, 121 new deaths

The developments came hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) claimed "positive results" from efforts to contain an epidemic that has now officially killed 1,367 people and infected almost 60,000. The daily death toll nearly halved when compared to Wednesday's 14,840.

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England, expressed frustration with the revised numbers from China, but said he believed it did not represent an increase in the rate of infections.

Amid growing public anger over the handling of the crisis, the ruling Communist Party of China replaced two high-ranking officials in Hubei province, where coronavirus first emerged in late December in provincial capital Wuhan.

The overall death toll due to the deadly coronavirus on Friday increased to 1,380 in China, with 63,851 confirmed cases, authorities said.

At a media briefing today, Mike Ryan, MD, director of the WHO's health emergencies program, emphasized that the addition of the clinically diagnosed illnesses doesn't reflect a surge of new cases.

Before Thursday, the Hubei case tally had been steadily decreasing. This follows when authorities have changed the way they calculate the figures.

The news comes as 44 more people aboard a cruise ship docked off the Japanese coast have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 218.

The head of a hospital in Wuhan, a city under virtual lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, told reporters on Thursday that plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

"This outbreak could still go in any direction", WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned.

"The United States is ready and prepared to expeditiously facilitate the approval of assistance from these organizations", it added. He fears that when the virus reaches a country with a weak health system, it can wreak havoc and uncontrollable infections.

In a statement today, China's National Health Commission (NHC) said a different category for reporting cases has been added only for Hubei province, which is the outbreak's epicenter.

In Singapore's biggest bank, DBS, 300 employees were evacuated when one person had gotten sick with the coronavirus.

Separately, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd RCL.N said it had canceled 18 cruises in Southeast Asia and joined larger rival Carnival Corp CCL.N in warning that its full-year earnings would be hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now", Mr Ryan said.

Among the deaths on Thursday, 116 were in Hubei province, two in Heilongjiang, and one each in Anhui, Henan and Chongqing.

There have now been 219 cases of the coronavirus found on board the cruise liner Diamond Princess, which is in quarantine off the coast of Yokohama in Japan.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed a woman who wasn't showing symptoms triggered a chain of coronavirus infections.

The passengers and crew members who had the virus were transferred to hospitals for treatment, while those still on board were confined in the cabins.