The number of confirmed cases of the rapidly spreading coronavirus infection in mainland China has reached 5,496, health authorities said on Wednesday, a total that surpasses that of Sars, the epidemic in 2003 that killed more than 600 people worldwide.

The death toll has climbed to 131, they announced, with 840 newly confirmed cases in Hubei province.

Sars infected 5,327 people in mainland China in nine months and killed 349 people, according to the World Health Organisation (WTO).

The total deaths from the new coronavirus infection are all reported in mainland China, with 125 in Hubei province, where the outbreak began, and six in other provinces. About 3,300 people are hospitalised in Hubei province, with more than 20,000 being observed for infection. MORE

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