China on Sunday said 17 more people have been infected with the new mysterious coronavirus that has killed two people and placed countries, including India, on alert.

It has also sparked concerns of a wider outbreak as the travel rush for the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays peaks this week.

More than three billion trips are expected to be made during a 40-day rush for the CNY holidays.

The surge in numbers announced by the Wuhan health commission on Sunday comes a day after a new analysis said more than 1700 could actually be infected with the “novel coronavirus”.

Until Sunday, at least 62 people have been infected in Wuhan where the virus is said to have originated.

According to the official news agency, Xinhua, among infected patients, “…12 are male and five are female. They are aged between 30 and 79, and three of them were in critical condition”.

“Epidemiological investigations into the 17 new cases are underway and close contacts are being traced, the authority said, adding that Wuhan will continue to expand the search area, identify suspected cases and conduct sampling tests,” the Xinhua report said Sunday.

“As of the end of Friday, a total of 62 cases have been reported in Wuhan, among whom two people were died, eight were in critical condition, and 19 had been discharged from hospitals. A total of 681 among the 763 close contacts placed under medical observation had been released. No cases were found among the close contacts,” the report added.

At least half-dozen countries in Asia have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China, the Associated Press reported.

The list includes Thailand and Japan, which have together reported three cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan.

A new analysis by Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis said the Wuhan novel coronavirus, a virus previously unknown, could have infected many more people than the number currently reported.

It could well be over 1700, the researchers said.

The statistics of the infected shared by the Chinese government, in fact, leaves one question unanswered: If at least three patients of the coronavirus were detected in Thailand and Japan – all three travelled from Wuhan – how is it possible that the rest of China doesn’t have a single case officially?

And, at a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese are travelling within and outside the country for the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays?

“The source of the outbreak is still under investigation in Wuhan. Preliminary investigations have identified environmental samples positive for nCoV in Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City, however, some laboratory-confirmed patients did not report visiting this market. To date, there is no reported infection among healthcare workers in China, Thailand or Japan,” according to an update from WHO on Friday.

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