Chinese authorities said the ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise, with more than 2,700 people in the country infected and 80 killed by the disease.
China's Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said on January 26 that the country was entering a “crucial stage" as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger."
Xiaowei said travel restrictions and other strict measures should bring results “at the lowest cost and fastest speed.”
His remarks came as the World Health Organization's director-general said late on January 26 that he was on his way to Beijing to hold talks with Chinese officials and health experts about the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Chinese State Council Premier Li Keqiang has visited Wuhan where the mysterious virus was first reported in December and which is the epicenter of the illness. He was the most senior government official to visit the city of more than 11 million people.
The State Council, China's cabinet, said Li would meet with patients and medical staff on the front line.
Nearly 960 medial teams were dispatched from seven provinces to Wuhan, along with seven additional supervision teams, according to the National Health Commission.
Countries throughout the world continued to detect further cases of the illness in their nations.
So far, all of the deaths have been in China. But a growing number of other countries are reporting cases, including Thailand, Australia, the United States, Canada, and France.
The mayor of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, said he expects another 1,000 new patients in the city.
The United States, France, and Japan were prepared to evacuate their citizens from the city.
President Xi Jinping on January 25 said China was "faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus."
His remarks came amid reports that a mounting number of cities had undertaken virtual lockdowns with inbound and outbound transport being shut down.
China Association of Travel Services has told travel agencies to halt all group tours, as millions of people traveling during the holiday have helped fueled the spread of the outbreak -- both inside the country and elsewhere.
Most of the deaths have been among patients aged 50 or over, officials said.
The virus is part of a large family of coronaviruses. Some cases are mild, with others causing cold- and flulike symptoms, including cough and fever. In more severe cases, there is shortness of breath. It can develop into pneumonia, which can be fatal.