Coronavirus death toll leaps, party bosses in China's Hubei province sacked

The Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in the death toll on Thursday under a new diagnostic method, and Beijing sacked two top provincial officials after criticism of their handling of the crisis.

Health officials in Hubei province said 242 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday, the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen was identified in December, and taking the total number of deaths to more than 1,350. A total of 1,310 deaths have been reported from Hubei.

Asian stock markets wobbled and the safe-havens of the Japanese yen, gold and bonds rose after the new Hubei numbers dashed hopes the epidemic was stabilizing and the Chinese economy could bounce back quickly. [MKTS/GLOB]

The spike in the death toll came a day after markets were cheered when China reported its lowest number of new cases in two weeks, bolstering a forecast by the country's senior medical adviser that the epidemic could end by April.

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