China's official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported.
Two top-ranking politicians overseeing the epicentre of the outbreak were also sacked, adding to questions over China's handling of the crisis, just hours after President Xi Jinping claimed "positive results" in battling the outbreak.
The World Health Organisation also quickly countered Chinese reassurances that the epidemic, which has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China, would peak in a matter of weeks.
"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now," said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme.
The virus has had massive ramifications globally since emerging from the central Chinese province of Hubei last month, with many countries banning travellers from China in a bid to stop people spreading the disease.
In Hubei, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday.