Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday expressed confidence that the country had the capability to overcome the outbreak of a Sars-like virus which has claimed 490 lives in China and infected tens of thousands, as Hong Kong announced it would quarantine all travellers entering from mainland China.
More than 24,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus.
Known officially as 2019-nCoV, the virus is believed to have surfaced in a market in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak and where most deaths have occurred.
From this provincial capital of Hubei, the virus has spread far and wide to more than two dozen countries, including the United States, Finland and Singapore.
"At present, the prevention and control work is achieving positive results," Mr Xi said at a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Earlier, at a legal committee meeting, Mr Xi said China's efforts in dealing with the epidemic are at a critical stage and that the law will be strictly enforced, especially against counterfeiters and in the wildlife trade.
Donations will be regulated and dispersed "in a timely manner", he added.
Provincial officials have come under fire for their sluggish initial response to the virus, with accusations of an attempted cover-up hurled at them.
A top Red Cross official from the Hubei branch was removed from office for dereliction of duty earlier this week.
Beijing is bracing itself for a spike in infections as millions return to work after the Chinese New Year holidays, which had been extended to next week in a bid to contain the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced yesterday that the Asian financial hub will close two cruise terminals. Quarantine of all visitors entering from mainland China will also begin on Saturday.
Her comments came as about 3,600 passengers and crew on a cruise ship docked in the city face quarantine after three passengers on board had earlier tested positive for the virus.
A similar situation is also developing in Japan, where 3,700 people would be quarantined after health officials confirmed 10 on board had been infected.
Mrs Lam is facing increasing pressure from medical workers on strike who have been pushing for a complete closure of Hong Kong's borders with the mainland.
Meanwhile, countries like the United States and Britain are looking at mounting more evacuation flights in the coming days for their citizens who are still in Wuhan.