The number of deaths from the Sars-type virus in Hubei province jumped by 242 on Thursday, according to local health authority figures, pushing the death toll from the Covid-19 epidemic in China past 1,350.
In its daily update, Hubei's health commission also confirmed another 14,840 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December.
The huge jump - about nine times Wednesday's figure - came as local officials said they were broadening their definition for cases of the new coronavirus.
In a statement, the commission said it would now include cases that were "clinically diagnosed" in its official toll.
This means lung imaging on suspected cases can be considered sufficient to diagnose the virus, rather than the standard nucleic acid tests.
Of the dramatic jump in figures on Thursday, it said the new classification accounted for 13,332 of the cases and just over half the new death toll.
The commission said the change would mean patients could get treatment "as early as possible" and be "consistent" with the classification used in other provinces.
It said it had made the change "as our understanding of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus deepens, and as we accumulate experience in diagnosis and treatment."
On Wednesday, Hubei's health commission reported 94 new deaths and 1,638 new cases. (AFP)
Broader definition sees 14,840 new virus cases
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