State media on the mainland reported on Thursday that an outbreak of a mystery viral pneumonia in the Hubei provincial capital, Wuhan, is believed to be down to a new type of coronavirus that has emerged.
Xinhua News Agency quoted a mainland expert, Xu Jianguo, as saying that a team he is leading in analysing pathogen test results has come to the conclusion that the virus is new, and is different from Sars or Mers, although it's from the same family of viruses.
Xu, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the illness will need to be researched further before it is fully understood, Xinhua reported.
Wuhan authorities say 59 people are suspected to have caught the new virus in the past couple of weeks, with seven patients seriously ill.
"Eight patients have been cured of the disease and were discharged from hospital on Wednesday," Xinhua quoted local health authorities as saying.
Mainland transport authorities said at a press conference on Thursday that they will step up disease prevention efforts at transport hubs across the country to try to prevent the spread of the new virus, with hundreds of millions of people set to travel during the upcoming lunar new year holidays.
Hong Kong has also placed almost 40 people in isolation over fears they too had the illness, although no cases have been confirmed and some people have already been discharged from hospital.
Taiwan and Singapore are also on high alert after their own suspected cases.
Officials in Wuhan have linked the outbreak to a seafood market in the city which also sells game meat.
Last updated: 2020-01-09 HKT 12:02