China said on Monday that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in an outbreak of a new coronavirus, a development that raises the possibility that it could spread more quickly and widely.
Team leader Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the virus from family members, state media said. Some medical workers have also tested positive for the virus, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported.
The late-night announcement capped a day in which authorities announced a sharp uptick in the number of confirmed cases to more than 200, and Chinas leader called on the government to take every possible step to combat the outbreak.
"The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and other places must be taken seriously, President Xi Jinping said in his first public statement on the crisis. Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put peoples lives and health first.
Mr. Xis remarks were reported by state broadcaster CCTV on its main 7 p.m. evening news broadcast.
The spread of the viral pneumonia comes as the country enters its busiest travel period, when millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays. The outbreak is believed to have started late last month when people picked it up at a fresh food market in Wuhan, a city in central China.