PV International Desk : The death toll from China’s new Coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,500 on Saturday after 143 more people died in the country, according to official data.

The National Health Commission also reported 2,641 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, with the vast majority in hard-hit central Hubei province.

More than 66,000 people have now been infected in China from an illness that emerged in the Hubei capital Wuhan in December and spread nationwide a month later.

All but four of the 143 new deaths were in Hubei, raising the toll to 1,523.

Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.

A number of cities far from the epicentre have also imposed tough measures limiting the number of people who can leave their homes, while schools remain closed nationwide and many companies have encouraged employees to work from home.