(Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Nature -- and its ability to attack mankind -- has shown exquisite timing with the spread of the latest coronavirus. Just days ahead of the Chinese New Year Festival -- which triggers the world's largest annual human migration -- China and much of the Asia-Pacific region is gripped by panic.

The epicentre of the potentially deadly respiratory infection pandemic, known as 2019-nCoV, appears to be the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan (population 11 million) where it was first detected in humans in December.

So far, about 300 cases have been reported in Beijing, Shanghai and the southern province of Guangdong, which neighbours Hong Kong, thousands of kilometres away from Wuhan. This number has jumped by almost 50% in two days. There are suspected cases in 13 other provinces.