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Coronavirus: China Locks Down 3 Cities To Curb Virus Outbreak As Death Toll Touches 17

China Banned Planes And Trains From Leaving From These Cities In An Unprecedented Move Aimed At Containing The Disease Which Has Already Claimed 17 Lives And Infected More Than 570.

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Pawas Kumar | Updated on: 23 Jan 2020, 06:37:46 PM
Chinese authorities have locked down the cities of Huanggang, Ezhou and Wuhan

Chinese authorities have locked down the cities of Huanggang, Ezhou and Wuhan (Photo Credit: IANS)

New Delhi:

China has expanded travel restrictions to two more cities after Wuhan in an effort to contain the mysterious outbreak of coronavirus. The authorities have locked down the central Chinese cities of Huanggang, Ezhou and Wuhan, collectively home to nearly 20 million people. China banned planes and trains from leaving from these cities in an unprecedented move aimed at containing the disease which has already claimed 17 lives and infected more than 570.

The Chinese authorities on Thursday morning closed off Wuhan - a major port city of more than 11 million people and the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak - by canceling flights and trains leaving the city, and suspending buses, subways and ferries within it. The respiratory virus is said to have emerged from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, infecting hundreds of people nationwide and been detected as far away as the United States. Officials later closed off Huanggang, a city of seven million about 30 miles east of Wuhan, and shut rail stations in the nearby city of Ezhou, which has about one million residents.

Authorities have told residents not to leave town "without a special reason" leading to fear and panic for those who were trapped.

"We are feeling as though it is the end of the world," said one Wuhan resident on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform, voicing concerns about shortages of food and disinfectant. Another described being on the "verge of tears" when the de facto quarantine was announced, with the misery compounded by it coming on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday.

In Beijing, the government cancelled massive gatherings that usually attract throngs at temples during the New Year holiday.

Wuhan's train station and airport, which should have been packed with people coming travelling for holiday family reunions, were almost empty except for workers on Thursday afternoon.

The few people wandering in the streets of the city were wearing masks as mandated by police.

What Is Coronavirus

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract. Animals are suspected to be the primary source of the outbreak, with Chinese health officials saying the virus originated from the market where wild animals were illegally sold. Studies published this week suggest that the virus may have originated in bats or snakes.

The first case of the new virus was confirmed on December 31, and it has since been detected in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

The 17 people who died in China were aged from 48 to 89, and had pre-existing health conditions, Chinese health authorities said Thursday. Chinese authorities on Thursday reported dozens of new infections, bringing the confirmed total to 571. About 5,000 people remain under medical observation. But scientists at the Imperial College in London estimate that 4,000 people have been infected in Wuhan.

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

The WHO has confirmed that the virus can be passed between people, at least those in close contact. Chinese health officials warned it could mutate and spread further.

"There are many unknowns to address in this event including clinical severity and the true extent and nature of disease transmission," said Michael Ryan, head of the WHO's health emergencies programme.

WHO Delays Decision On Emergency Call

The World Health Organization on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to declare a global health emergency - a rare instrument used only for the worst outbreaks. The emergency committee will meet again on Thursday, after experts were split over declaring a public health emergency.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "more information" was needed but he also praised China's "very, very strong measures" that will help control the epidemic and "minimise the chances of this outbreak spreading internationally".

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First Published : 23 Jan 2020, 06:27:11 PM

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