Japan has announced its first death from a new virus, hours after confirming 44 more cases on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo as fears of the spreading disease mount in the country.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato says the first fatality is a woman in her 80s. She had been treated at a hospital near Tokyo since early February after developing symptoms. Her infection was confirmed after her death.   He also confirmed two other cases of the virus, a Tokyo taxi driver and a doctor at a hospital in western Japan.

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The cruise ship, which is still carrying about 3,500 people, now has 218 confirmed cases. In total, the country has confirmed 247 cases of the virus. 

In China, 254 new daily deaths have been reported. Daily virus cases have also spiked after new methodology was applied in the hardest-hit province of Hubei as to how cases are categorized.

The total deaths in China from the more than 2-month-old outbreak as reported on Thursday stood at 1,367, with the total number of confirmed cases in China mounting to 59,804.

The sudden spike wiped out a glimmer of hope following two straight days in which the number of new coronavirus cases dropped.