China on Tuesday pledged open and quick reporting of any cases of swine flu in the country as it ordered an all-out effort to prevent an outbreak.
The government, which was heavily criticised for initially covering up the SARS epidemic in 2003, has made fighting the disease its "central task", said a statement issued after a cabinet meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.
The State Council said in a statement it had ordered a raft of measures including the establishment of a "direct reporting system on the epidemic leading to early discovery, early reports, early diagnosis, early quarantine and early treatment".
"As soon as cases are discovered in our borders they must be publicly announced in a timely manner."
China has so far not reported any human cases of swine flu, which is believed to have claimed the lives of more than 150 people in Mexico and is known to have spread to the United States, Canada, Britain and Spain.
The State Council ordered the creation of a joint monitoring body uniting staff from the health and agriculture ministries, the state quarantine and inspection bureau and other relevant departments.
"We have to maintain high vigilance, adopt effective measures and rigorously guard against the epidemic to protect the health and safety of the masses," the government statement said.
"The meeting ordered all regions and all departments to make prevention of human cases of swine flu their central task."
China initially tried to deny the existence of the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and only owned up after it spilled over into other countries.
The meeting chaired by Wen marked a sharp escalation in China's response, as the situation overseas has quickly worsened. The health ministry had at the weekend merely said it was "paying close attention" to the situation.
The State Council ordered strict monitoring of people arriving in China from affected areas and strengthened supervision of the pig-raising industry, pig markets, and the import and exports of pigs.
Beijing had already banned hog and pork product imports from Mexico and parts of the United States.
"Because the epidemic situation in some countries is still developing, cases are mounting, and the affected area is expanding, the possibility of transmission to our country has not been eliminated," it said.