Chinese President Xi Jinping approved the dispatch of 1,400 military doctors to Wuhan to work on the treatment of coronavirus at the Huoshenshan Specialised Hospital, which was officially put into operation on Sunday, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"The armed forces sent 1,400 medical personnel to Wuhan, where starting from 3 February they will perform the tasks assigned to them at Huoshenshan Specialised Hospital for the treatment of pneumonia caused by the new type of coronavirus", the ministry said in a statement.

It is reported that the doctors were sent by military medical institutes of the ground forces, the air force, the navy, the combined rear support forces, and 15 experts from the Chinese army's disease control and prevention centre and the military medical research institute at the army's academy of military science.

Huoshenshan Hospital will mostly receive patients with a confirmed diagnosis. It will have an intensive care unit, a general medical unit, as well as units for seriously ill patients, infection control, radiation diagnostics and others. The hospital has a floor area of 25,000 square meters and has the capacity to receive 1,000 patients at once.

In the 60,000-square-metre Leishenshan Hospital, 51,000 square metres will be allocated to accommodate up to 1,600 patients in necessary quarantine conditions, and 9,000 square metres will be used for a 24-hour stay of medical staff.

Both hospitals are modelled after Xiaotangshan Hospital in Beijing, which was built in seven days during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in April 2003 to cope with a large number of patients.

The new strain of coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — was first detected in Wuhan in December and has since spread to more than 20 countries. The virus has already killed over 300 people in China and infected about 14,400 others, prompting authorities from various countries to evacuate their nationals from the affected areas.

The World Health Organisation declared a global health emergency on Thursday in light of the outbreak.