China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday, with nearly 2,000 people in China infected and 56 killed by the disease.
The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise.
SARS was a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.
“According to recent clinical information, the virus’s ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma told a packed media briefing on the second day of the Lunar New Year holiday, adding that knowledge of the virus was limited.
Containment efforts, which have thus far included transportation and travel curbs and the cancellation of big events, will be intensified, Ma said.
The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Hong Kong has six confirmed cases.