Beijing’s Daxing health commission confirmed two new cases of coronavirus, while Guangdong province officials confirmed one case, marking the first instances of the illness spreading beyond Wuhan, the city where cases were first discovered.
The Wuhan municipal health commission said in a statement that 136 cases of coronavirus emerged in the city on Saturday and Sunday. Two cases have also been reported in Thailand and one in Japan – each involving people who travelled from Wuhan.
The Agence France-Presse news agency reported that a third patient had died of the infection.
Medical experts are still struggling to understand the new strain of the Sars-like virus. Its transmission path has not been mapped completely and its source is unknown.
On Sunday China’s national health commission insisted the outbreak was controllable.
Monitoring is set to ramp up during Lunar new year, when hundreds of millions of Chinese are due to travel abroad for celebrations.
The World Health Organisation said in a tweet on Sunday that some of the new cases appear not to be linked to the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, believed to the centre of the outbreak. Due to due to China’s efforts to implement broader screening, new cases may be identified in the coming days and weeks, it added.
“The fact that three cases have been exported to Thailand and Japan without connection to the Huanan seafood market suggests that the virus has spread beyond the Huanan seafood market into the community,” said David Hui, a professor of respiratory medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Wuhan will strengthen oversight of large-scale events and reduce the number of activities that involve public gatherings, state media quoted Chen Yanxin, the city’s deputy mayor as saying on Sunday.
Additional reporting by agencies