BEIJING (Kyodo) -- Health authorities in the central China city of Wuhan said Monday that 198 people have been so far confirmed as infected with a new coronavirus, with 19 cases elsewhere in China reported, taking the total in the country to 217.
The virus -- which has killed a third person -- has been detected in five people in Beijing and 14 in the southern province of Guangdong, the nation's state-run media said. It was the first confirmation of an outbreak outside Wuhan.
The new strain has also been confirmed in a Chinese woman in her 30s staying in South Korea, the country's health ministry said Monday. She has developed pneumonia caused by the virus.
In other Asian nations, Thailand has this month confirmed infections, while Japan last week reported its first case of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus.
As many Chinese citizens are expected to travel during the Lunar New Year holidays, which start later this week, it is feared that infection may spread, mainly in other parts of China.
President Xi Jinping has pledged to take "decisive" steps to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, saying his leadership will put primary emphasis on the safety and health of people, the official media reported.
In China's eastern province of Zhejiang, meanwhile, the local authorities said Monday that five patients suspected to have a new type of pneumonia have been found, adding they are in quarantine and receiving treatment.
Moreover, the third death stemming from the virus was announced Monday by the authorities in Wuhan, located around 1,000 kilometers south of Beijing. Two earlier fatalities were also in Wuhan.
"Acting with a sense of responsibility, we've shared information with the World Health Organization, other nations, regional organizations, Hong Kong and Macao regions. We've stayed in close contact with them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
"We'll work with all parties concerned to deal with the situation for the sake of regional and global health," he also said at a regular press briefing.
Coronaviruses usually cause common-cold symptoms, infecting the nose, sinuses or upper throat, and are spread through sneezing, coughing or direct contact.
But some types lead to more serious, sometimes deadly respiratory diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome or Middle East respiratory syndrome, commonly known as SARS and MERS, respectively.
Wuhan municipal authorities have said the risk of continued person-to-person infection is relatively low and preventable, and can be contained. The authorities have not held any press conference, however, triggering accusations they may be withholding information.
A comment posted on Chinese social media asked, "Why has the number (of the patients) suddenly increased?"