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COVID-19 death toll climbs as rate of infection appears to slow

A passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship stands on cabin balconies near the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, on Tuesday. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
A passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship stands on cabin balconies near the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan, on Tuesday. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The number of deaths from a deadly coronavirus outbreak continued to climb on Wednesday amid signs the disease may be slowing down, according to officials.

China's National Health Commission announced early Wednesday that 97 people had died in the previous 24 hours, raising the national death toll to 1,113.

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The figures released for Tuesday show that all but three of the deaths occurred in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak that began in early December. They also represent the first daily decline since late January when deaths began to exponentially climb. On Monday, China posted a 24-hour record of 108 deaths.

The number of infected also climbed by 2,015 cases over Tuesday, reaching 44,653 cases nationwide with more than 30,000 reported in Hubei.

However, the increase was the smallest since the beginning of the month when there were fewer than 12,000 confirmed cases total, and was a continuation of an overall downward trend from a peak of 3,887 cases recorded on Feb. 4.

Amid indications that the virus may be slowing, Chinese scientists said it could peak by late this month, according to state-run Global Times.

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Globally, there have been two deaths from COVID-19 outside mainland China -- one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines -- with 393 confirmed cases in 24 countries, according to the WHO.

The disease was officially named COVID-19 on Tuesday by the World Health Organization "to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing," said the organization's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"With 99 percent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world," he said.

In Japan, more passengers of a quarantined cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

A Princess Cruises' vessel has been stationed off Yokohama since Feb. 4 after a passenger who disembarked from the ship was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Since then, Japanese health officials discovered more and more confirmed cases among the ship named Diamond Princess' passengers.

On Wednesday, the ministry said an additional 39 passengers tested positive for the virus, increasing the total number of infected to 174, the largest number of confirmed cases outside of China. Singapore has the next highest number of infections with fewer than 50, according to the WHO.

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The ministry said it has tested 492 of its more than 3,700 quarantined passengers and crew. Those who have tested positive include the elderly and foreign nationals, it said, adding that they are now being treated at hospitals on the mainland.

The ministry also said one of its officers on the ship has also contracted the disease and has since been hospitalized and has begun treatment.

Diamond Princess is scheduled to complete its 14-day quarantine next Wednesday.

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