Chinese authorities have confirmed that the virus that has infected more than 200 people in four countries can be transmitted via human-to-human contact.
The confirmation comes as airports around the world introduced temperature screening, with hundreds of millions of Chinese people travelling home and abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday.
China’s President Xi Jinping said 217 people in the country have been infected by the new viral pneumonia, and has ordered resolute measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Four people have died so far, while cases have also been confirmed in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
The novel coronavirus has been associated with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people around the world during a 2002-03 outbreak that started in China.
However, Zhong Nanshan, the expert who discovered the SARS virus, during the outbreak in China in 2003, said the new virus is completely different from SARS and MERS.
“It’s not as contagious and virulent as SARS. I think there’s a difference between the severity and the spread of the disease between the new coronavirus and SARS,” Zhong said during an interview with CCTV.
The mysterious virus was first reported in Wuhan City, Central China’s Hubei Province in December 2019.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as affected countries and regions to prevent it from spreading further.