41 deaths reported as coronavirus spreads to 11 countries
The 15 new deaths all took place in Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the deadly respiratory contagion first emerged in a market where exotic animals and bushmeat were sold, the Hubei Health Commission said.
At least 444 new cases of the virus have been found, raising the total number to 1,287, the National Health Commission said in a separate statement.
The disease has spread to 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and 11 other countries worldwide.
Wuhan and 13 other cities in Hubei have been locked down in an unprecedented quarantine effort aimed at containing the deadly respiratory contagion, which has spread to several other countries.
The Hubei Health Commission also reported 180 new cases overall in the province, 77 of them in Wuhan but the bulk of the rest spread out across the locked-down smaller cities. There are now 729 cases in Hubei alone.
Several of those cities were reporting their first cases of the pathogen - 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - the commission said.
The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
It also has struck at possibly the worst time for China, when hundreds of millions of people are travelling across the country or overseas to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, China's most important festival.
On Saturday, Australia became the latest country to confirm its first four cases of the viral outbreak.
One man, who has pneumonia, was being treated in isolation after arriving in Melbourne a week ago from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Three other men in Sydney who also arrived recently from China had tested positive for the disease and were in isolation in local hospitals.
"They are not particularly unwell," New South Wales state chief health officer Kerry Chant told a press conference.
She said public health officials had managed to track most of the people who had been with two of the men on their flights from China and none were showing symptoms of the illness.
Authorities in Queensland state said five other people had been cleared after they were suspected of infection.
China, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam have all confirmed cases of the viral infection.
The World Health Organisation said China faced a national emergency but stopped short of declaring a global health emergency, which would have prompted greater global cooperation.
The virus causes pneumonia, and those who have confirmed its contraction have reportedly suffered coughs, fever and breathing difficulties.