China's National Health Commission (NHC) said on Sunday that the new coronavirus is contagious even in its incubation period, which lasts up to 14 days, and that the virus' ability to spread is getting stronger.
Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of the NHC, told a press briefing that the authorities' understanding of the virus was "limited" and they were also unclear on the risks posed by possible mutations.
"The outbreak is expected to continue for some time," he said.
Since the outbreak was first reported in December, more than 2,070 people have been infected with the new coronavirus and 56 killed.
Ma said that unlike Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) the new coronavirus was infectious during its incubation period.
He also reiterated earlier reports that people infected with the virus might not immediately show any symptoms.
This had added to the difficulties faced by the authorities to control its spread and prevent further infections, he said.
As well as locking down cities, the government was sending more doctors and nurses, and more medical supplies to Wuhan, Ma said.
More than 1,350 medics had already arrived in the city to help battle the epidemic and a further 1,000 would follow, he said.
As well as seeking to contain the outbreak in towns and cities, the government was also monitoring the situation in rural areas, he said.
Ma said that Beijing was aware there was a shortage of medical supplies and that the relevant authorities were seeking to source them in "every possible way".
Wang Jiangping, vice-minister for industry and information technology, said at the press conference that China was pursuing various channels, both at home and overseas, to source the required supplies.
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