Asian countries have ramped up measures to block the spread of a new virus as the death toll in China rose to six and the number of cases jumped to almost 300, raising concerns in the middle of a major holiday travel rush.
From Australia to Thailand and as far as Nepal, nations stepped up fever checks of passengers at airports to detect the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-like coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Zhou Xianwang, mayor of Wuhan, told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday that the death toll had risen from four to six.
Fears of a bigger outbreak increased after a prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed late on Monday that the virus can be passed between people.
Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission, said there was no danger of a repeat of 2002's SARS epidemic that killed nearly 800 people across the world, as long as precautions were taken.
"It took only two weeks to identify the novel coronavirus," state news agency Xinhua quoted Zhong as saying late on Monday.
Earlier, Zhong acknowledged patients may have contracted the new virus without having visited the central city of Wuhan where the infection is thought to have originated in a seafood market.
"Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission," he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
China said it would attend a special World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on Wednesday which will determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which was detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea among four people who had visited Wuhan.
Source: Al Jazeera
BDST: 2203 HRS, JAN 21, 2020