The death toll from coronavirus raised to 2,663 in China as another 71 more cases, the lowest daily number of fatalities in over two weeks were reported on Tuesday.
The National Health Commission also reported 508 new confirmed cases, with all but nine in hard-hit Hubei province.
It is up from Monday’s 409 cases nationwide.
Multiple provinces in China have reported zero new cases for several days in a row now, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying Monday that the coronavirus epidemic has “peaked” in China.
Despite a downward trend in new case numbers, China continues to struggle to resume normal activity after the virus brought the world’s second-largest economy to a standstill.
The country also decided to postpone its annual parliament session for the first time since the Cultural Revolution.
Tens of millions of people remain under lockdown in Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated late last year.
A slight easing of the lockdown in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, was retracted shortly after being announced on Monday.
Outbreaks in prisons and hospitals have also raised further concerns about ineffective containment measures.
The Communist Party’s political and legal affairs commission said Tuesday that 323 coronavirus cases were reported in Hubei prisons by Sunday, including 279 in the Wuhan Women’s Prison.
WHO warns of pandemic risk after virus peaks
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the peak in China occurred between January 23 and February 2 and the number of new cases there “has been declining steadily since then”.
He however, insisted the virus could still be contained, praising China´s drastic quarantine measures in several cities for helping to prevent an even bigger spread.
“For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale deaths,” Tedros told reporters in Geneva.
He added, however, that countries should be “doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”
The term “pandemic” is used to describe an illness that spreads across numerous communities.
However, WHO expert Bruce Aylward, leader of a joint WHO-China mission of experts, warned on Monday of outbreaks in other countries “increasing at exponential growth rates”.
South Korea hotspot
South Korea, which has the largest number of cases outside China, reported 60 more infections and one more fatality on Tuesday, raising its death toll to eight and total patients to nearly 900.
South Korea’s outbreak has centred around a religious sect in Daegu, the country´s fourth largest city.
The country is on its highest “red” alert. As part of the containment efforts, school holidays were extended nationally while the 2.5 million people of Daegu were told to remain indoors.
The US Centers for Disease Control raised its caution level to warn Americans against “all nonessential travel to South Korea”.
Italy, which has reported seven deaths and over 200 cases, has locked down 11 towns, while upcoming football matches in its Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors.
With police manning checkpoints to enforce a blockade, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks of lockdown.
The disease — officially known as COVID-19 — spread to new countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman.
At least 12 people have died in Iran, the highest toll outside China.
But there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged. The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted one local lawmaker in hard-hit Qom — a religious centre — who said 50 people had died there.
The Iranian government denied the report, and pledged transparency.
Even so, authorities have only reported 64 infections in Iran, an unusually small number that would mean an extremely high mortality rate.
Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said a team from the UN agency would be arriving in Iran on Tuesday.
But he cautioned against drawing any conclusions about the mortality rate. Iran “may only be detecting severe cases” because the epidemic was still at an early stage, he said.
Several countries have taken measures to prevent arrivals from Iran.