As many as 80 people have died due to the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China and the number of confirmed cases have risen to 2,744, the country’s health authorities said on Monday even as nearly 20 cities with about 51 million people are under an unprecedented lockdown to contain the outbreak.

The National Health Commission said that of the infected, 461 were in critical condition.

Sunday saw 769 new confirmed cases, 3,806 new suspected cases and 24 deaths (all in Hubei province), the Commission revealed.

By the end of Sunday, 51 people had recovered and there were currently a total of 5,794 suspected cases.

Meanwhile, at least 32,799 close contacts have been traced, the Commission said, adding that among them, 583 were discharged from medical observation on Sunday, with 30,453 others still under medical observation.

The figures also showed that 17 confirmed cases had been reported in Hong Kong (eight), Macao (five) and Taiwan (four).

Outside of China, there are currently eight confirmed cases in Thailand (five of which have been discharged from hospital); five in the US; four each in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, France and Japan (one cured); three in South Korea; two in Vietnam; and one each in Nepal and Canada.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a new suspected case of the novel Coronavirus has surfaced in Multan, taking the overall tally of the fatal virus in the country to five.

China has announced the extension of the Spring Festival holiday until February 2, amid its efforts to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Universities, primary and secondary schools, and kindergartens across the country will postpone the start of the semester, said a State Council General Office circular, adding that the specific time for the semester start will be unveiled by respective education authorities.

The measure is taken to help reduce mass gatherings, curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus, and to better safeguard the safety and health of the Chinese people, according to the circular.

Experts of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have successfully isolated the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the environmental samples of a seafood market in Wuhan, indicating that the virus stems from wild animals on sale at the market.

Amid the panic and chaos, China is facing accusations from the world community of suppressing and playing down the Coronavirus outbreak and the scale of infections which some reports say now as high as 90,000 while the official Beijing figure is just 1,975.

Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has announced his plans to visit China to assess the situation over the novel Coronavirus outbreak which is rapidly spreading across the globe.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Ghebreyesus said during his visit, he will meet government officials and health experts which will help his team understand the latest developments in an effort to provide further protection against the outbreak, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, the WHO is yet to declare the outbreak a global epidemic.

The Coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract.

The symptoms of infection include fever, cough and breathing problems.

(With agency inputs)