China has said a SARS-like virus outbreak which could spread across the country during Lunar New Year celebrations is “controllable” after reports of 17 new cases in the city of Wuhan. In its first statement since the virus was detected, China’s National Health Commission insisted the disease’s source was unknown, but vowed to “step up monitoring” of any mutations during the festival period. Millions of Chinese will be heading home to their families for the holiday, also called the Spring Festival, in the next few days. The disease, also known as the coronavirus, is connected to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people in China and Hong Kong during 2002 and 2003. Advertise with NZME. Nearly 300,000 body temperature tests have been carried out, according to state broadcasters. Authorities in Hong Kong have also stepped up detection measures, including temperature checkpoints for travellers arriving from the Chinese mainland. The US has said it will begin screening direct flights arriving from Wuhan at San Francisco airport and New York’s JFK, as well as Los Angeles, where many flights connect.