Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart that everything possible was being done to contain the spread of the coronavirus following an outcry over the death of a doctor who had warned of the impending epidemic.
The death toll currently stands at just under 650 people, including Dr Li Wenliang, who had been threatened by police for warning about the virus early last month.
The death of ophthalmologist Li caused an outcry on social media as people expressed their anger and grief.
The 34-year-old was one of eight people reprimanded by police in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, for spreading “illegal and false” information about the flu-like virus.
He warned of a new “SARS-like” virus on social media, which China had been accused of trying to cover up.
The Severe Acute Respirartory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002 killed 800 people around the world.
He was forced to sign a letter on 3 January saying he had “severely disrupted social order” as he faced the wrath of police.
“We deeply mourn the death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang … After all-effort rescue, Li passed away on 2:58 a.m.,” the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily said on Twitter.
In the wake of that, President Xi has reassured US President Donald Trump during a phone call with the White House that China was confident of defeating the coronavirus.
China accused the US of scaremongering and vowed to step up support for the economy to cushion the blow.
The world’s second largest economy could see first-quarter growth slow by more than two per cent, although analysts say it could rebound sharply if the outbreak is brought under control.
Chinese stocks are heading for their worst week since May, while financial markets around Asia slipped after several days of gains.