BEIJING, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese health authorities said Tuesday that 291 confirmed cases of new coronavirus-related pneumonia and 54 suspected cases had been reported in the country by the end of Monday.
The National Health Commission (NHC) said 77 new confirmed cases were reported Monday. Among them, 72 were reported in central China's Hubei Province, two in Shanghai and three in Beijing.
Altogether 27 new suspected cases were reported in nine provincial-level regions Monday, the commission said.
A total of 1,739 close contacts have been traced, according to the commission. Among them, 922 are under medical observation while 817 others have been discharged.
Overseas, one case has been confirmed in Japan, two in Thailand, and one in the Republic of Korea.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert and head of a high-level expert team of the NHC, said the rise in new cases in China has many reasons, one of which is the use of new testing techniques that leads to fast detection.
A new testing kit has been developed and dispatched to the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last Thursday. As it was used to test suspected pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, the number of confirmed cases started to grow, the experts said.
"A suspected case would be confirmed after being tested positive twice, much faster than the previous procedure of going through the China CDC or rigorous examination by health authorities," Zhong said.