The Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more infections using a broader definition on Thursday, while Japan became the third place outside mainland China to suffer a fatality.

The epidemic has given China’s ruling Communist Party one of its sternest challenges in years, constrained the world’s second largest economy and triggered a purge of provincial bureaucrats.

With China’s streets, restaurants and flower markets bare, a miserable Valentine’s Day was expected on Friday.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death – a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo – adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen other countries and territories that have seen hundreds of infections from the flu-like virus.

The Japanese woman fell ill in January but only later showed symptoms of pneumonia and was hospitalised, with coronavirus confirmed after her death and the contagion route under investigation, the health minister said.

The biggest cluster of infections outside China is on a cruise liner now quarantined off a Japanese port and a further 44 cases were reported on board on Thursday, raising the total to 219. But authorities said some elderly people would finally to be allowed to disembark on Friday.

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