The National Health Commission also said in its daily update that China had confirmed 889 new cases.
The number is up from the previous day when it reported the lowest number of new infections in nearly a month, which fuelled hopes that the epidemic is nearing its peak.
More than 75,000 coronavirus infections have now been reported in China, and hundreds more overseas in more than 25 countries.
The vast majority of the deaths and overall cases in China remain in Hubei and particularly the provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.
The numbers have been muddied, however, by China changing the criteria it uses to arrive at a diagnosis.
China said yesterday (Feb 20) that it had once again revised the way it confirms infections and would now include only those diagnosed by laboratory tests.
It was the second revision in just eight days, a move that could muddle efforts to track the spread of the illness.
Chinese health officials had last week said that patients from Hubei who had been diagnosed through clinical methods including lung imaging would be added to the count in addition to those confirmed by lab tests.
That led to a huge one-day increase in the number of confirmed cases - 14,840 - on February 13.
The change was blamed on a backlog of patients awaiting nucleic acid tests whose condition was deteriorating and needed urgent treatment.
Chinese officials said this week that their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in other cities nationwide, have started to pay off.
A World Health Organization official noted the progress in China but warned it had not yet reached a turning point.
Virus hits Iran
Elsewhere, Iran has confirmed three new coronavirus cases following the deaths of two elderly men, the health ministry told AFP yesterday, as Iraq banned travel to and from its neighbour.
The pair who died were elderly Iranian citizens and residents of the city of Qom. They were the first confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus in the Middle East.
Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said two of the new cases were also in Qom and the other was in Arak, south of the holy city.
“In total there were five cases... of which two have been fatal,” he said.
South Korea cases jump to 156
South Korea confirmed 52 more cases of novel coronavirus today as the number of infections linked to a religious sect in Daegu spiked, making it the worst-infected country outside China.
Thirty-nine of the new cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southern city of Daegu, the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said, taking the country’s overall figure to 156. One person has died, it was confirmed yesterday.
More than 80 members of Shincheonji have now been infected, starting with a 61-year-old woman who developed a fever on Feb 10 but attended at least four church services before being diagnosed.
The mayor of Daegu - South Korea’s fourth-biggest city, with a population of over 2.5 million - has advised residents to stay indoors, while access to a major US base in the area has been restricted.
Residents wore masks to go about their daily activities today, but the streets remained active.