BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- A high-level expert team of China's National Health Commission Monday confirmed people-to-people transmission of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and infections among medical staff.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert and head of the team, said two cases in Guangdong Province were confirmed to be people-to-people transmission.

"The patients got infected, respectively, after their family members traveled to Wuhan and were infected by the virus," Zhong said during a media interview.

He also confirmed infections among medical staff.

The novel coronavirus infection was first reported in central China's Wuhan city, where 198 viral pneumonia cases have been confirmed.

Zhong said the geographical distribution of Wuhan's infection cases indicated a close relationship between the epidemic and a local seafood market.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the expert team, said the outbreak of the new coronavirus can be reversed if measures are taken now.

He said the constant emergence of new cases at present indicated that the epidemic is still at its early stage.

Zhong also predicted an increase of viral pneumonia cases during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. But he expressed confidence in curbing the virus spread, saying the SARS epidemic in 2003 will not be repeated.

"It took just two weeks to identify the novel coronavirus," Zhong said, noting that with well-rounded monitoring and quarantine systems, China will not suffer the social and economic impact as serious as 17 years ago.

He said early discovery, diagnosis, treatment and quarantine remain the most effective method to bring the outbreak under control.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, a total of 224 cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus had been reported in China. Of them, 217 had been confirmed, with 198 in Wuhan, 14 in Guangdong Province, and five in Beijing.

Overseas, one case has been confirmed in Japan, two in Thailand, and one in the Republic of Korea.