The coronavirus death toll in mainland China reached 1,770 on Sunday, up by 105 from the previous day, the country's National Health Commission has said.

The number of new deaths in China's central Hubei province from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 100 as of Sunday.

Across mainland China, there were 2,048 new confirmed infections on Sunday. The total accumulated number so far has reached 70,548.

The latest rise in the number of reported new cases of coronavirus in Hubei after two days of falls, comes as authorities imposed tough new restrictions on movement to prevent the spread of the disease.

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The tighter lockdown on the central province where the flu-like virus originated in December came as American passengers were taken off a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan.

Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board the Diamond Princess where 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since February 3.

Some 355 people on board have tested positive for the disease, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China.

Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

"Leaving in a few hours. No details. Might be going to Texas or Nebraska," Gay Courter, one of the American passengers on board, told Reuters.

She said she expected to spend another two weeks in quarantine on U.S. soil.

In Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, health officials reported 1,933 new cases and 100 new deaths on February 16, the lowest daily death count since February 11.

The number of new cases rose nearly 5% from the previous day, but the number of deaths fell from 139.

Nearly 90% of the new cases were in the provincial capital of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have originated at a market illegally trading wildlife.

The total number of cases in the province reached 58,182, with 1,696 deaths.

Chinese health officials on Sunday said two days of falls in the number of new confirmed cases showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.

"The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing," Mi Feng, spokesman for the Health Commission, told reporters.

Mi said the proportion of confirmed cases who were critically ill had fallen to 21.6% on Saturday, from 32.4% on January 27. He said this showed the authorities were able to treat patients more quickly, preventing cases from becoming critical.

Outside China, more than 500 cases have been confirmed, mostly of people who travelled from Chinese cities, with five deaths.

Restrictions were tightened further in Hubei on Sunday with vehicles, apart from essential services, banned from the roads and companies told to stay shut until further notice.

After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China urgently needs to get back to work. But in some cities streets are still deserted. Many factories have yet to re-open, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond.

Trade-dependent Singapore on Monday downgraded its 2020 economic growth forecast range to -0.5% to 1.5% from 0.5% to 2.5% previously as it braces for a hit from the novel

coronavirus outbreak.

Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Britain's University of Edinburgh, said it was too early to say the virus had peaked.

"It could simply be that reporting is not keeping up with events in circumstances where the health services are under enormous pressure,'' he said.

Meanwhile, as Wuhan, the capital city of the province at the epicentre of the new  strain of virus, becomes the latest urban centre to face a deadly disease outbreak, city planners and physicians say such densely packed hubs are particularly vulnerable and may need a redesign

Wuhan, a city of about 11 million, has been under virtual lockdown for over three weeks.

More than 1,400 people on the mainland have died, according to authorities.

The outbreak has brought to mind another deadly epidemic, SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed more than 770 people between 2002 and 2003.

That disease's epicentre was a housing estate in Hong Kong, amongst the most densely populated and unequal cities in the world.

With more than two-thirds of the global population forecast to live in urban areas by 2050, cities need to be designed for good health, said Sreeja Nair, a policy researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (LKYCIC) in Singapore.

"While urban living offers prospects of better economic opportunities and infrastructure, including healthcare facilities, the way cities densify and expand plays a huge role in the spread of infectious diseases," she said.

Wealth inequality in cities also affects their vulnerability and capacity in terms of preparedness and response, Nair told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"This skew on account of socio-economic disparities and governance puts some parts of the population at higher risk," including those lacking access to proper housing, healthcare and basic utilities such as water and sanitation, she said.

Cities have long been magnets for people seeking economic opportunities and a better quality of life.

But these areas with people living in close proximity have also enabled the fast spread of disease, from bubonic plague in the Middle Ages to bird flu, SARS and the novel coronavirus.

Although urban residents generally have better health than rural populations, the risks are distributed unequally, with most of the burden falling on vulnerable segments such as slum dwellers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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