While the vast bulk of Coronavirus cases have been confined to China the outbreak has now been found in a number of other countries including the United States, Malaysia, France, Australia and Japan. 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world climbed sharply to more than 1,250, with at least 41 deaths, all of them in China.

Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for examinations, and some complained that family members had been turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

Authorities in Wuhan and elsewhere put out calls for medicine, disinfection equipment, masks, goggles, gowns and other protective gear.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation says that the symptoms of the virus are similar to many other illnesses, making the outbreak difficult to control. 

In two studies published in the journal Lancet, scientists said the virus can cause symptoms similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) such as fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. As the illness progresses, patients may experience difficulty breathing. 

Initially described by Chinese authorities as a new strain of pneumonia, the outbreak was later confirmed to be a novel coronavirus. These are viruses that originate in animals before impacting humans. 

How is the virus spreading?

Coronavirus appears to be capable of spreading from person to person and between cities.

Can the new virus be treated?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus, although researchers in the US and China have already begun working on one, thanks to China's prompt sharing of the virus's genetic code. 

However, any vaccine will not be available for up to a year and would most likely be given to health workers most at risk of contracting the virus. 

For now, it is a case of containment.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak: What is it and what should we do? 

How does this compare to previous outbreaks?

Several experts say the new coronavirus appears to be less severe than its predecessors.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said typical flu epidemics can kill tens of thousands of people, but previous new coronavirus outbreaks have led to fewer deaths.

For example, severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) killed about 800 people, while Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) led to about 450 deaths.

What's being done to protect the UK?

GPs have been told to isolate anyone with symptoms that could indicate coronavirus who have recently travelled from Wuhan in China.

Guidance from Public Health England said doctors should check the travel history of patients.

If they suspect a patient has coronavirus, they should be placed in a room away from other patients and staff with the door closed.

They should not be allowed to use communal toilet facilities or be physically examined, the guidance adds.