The total number of confirmed nationwide cases of the novel coronavirus has surpassed total suspected cases for four consecutive days and the gap keeps widening, signifying stronger screening and testing capabilities, the National Health Commission said on Saturday.
"Faster screening has enabled suspected and confirmed patients to receive proper treatment for their conditions," the commission's spokeswoman Song Shuli said at a news conference held by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council.
The commission reported 34,546 confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland as of Friday. The mainland death toll rose by 86 on Friday to 722.
There are 27,657 suspected cases on the mainland as of Friday, up 4,214 from the previous day. The growth rate for daily suspected infections has been slowing down since Wednesday, when as many as 5,328 new suspected cases were reported.
Speedier approval granted to test kit manufacturers has boosted supplies of key diagnostic equipment, according to Jiang Deyuan, an official with the National Medical Products Administration.
"Diagnostic products have undergone accelerated approval process designed for emergency response. In the past month, the administration has approved registration applications from seven relevant companies, ramping up production of nucleic acid test kits and meeting demands," he said.
After issuing approvals, the administration has also required local medical product regulators to step up oversight over test kits sold in order to ensure their safety and efficacy, Jiang added.
Recent reports of scientists identifying traces of the novel coronavirus in feces of infected patients have stoked worries surrounding the transmission mode of the virus.
Feng Luzhao, a researcher with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the news conference there is no definitive answer as to whether the virus can be transmitted via human excrement.
"Instances of fecal samples testing positive for the virus merely suggest the possibility of fecal-oral transmission, but currently we are unsure if the virus could be contracted by consuming food or water contaminated by the virus," he said.
Though the fecal-oral route is seen in some other infectious diseases, such as cholera and hand, foot and mouth disease, available evidence shows the novel coronavirus still primarily spreads through respiratory droplets and contact, Feng said.
"We will intensify research into this aspect to clarify the virus's transmission mode," he added.
Feng also urged the public, especially those in food service, to wash hands regularly to prevent infection.