Three Chinese cities with a total population of 20 million have been put on lockdown and Beijing has cancelled a number of major public events in an attempt to contain the spread of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Authorities banned transport links from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, on Thursday, as well as the nearby central Chinese cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, suspending buses, subways, ferries and shutting the airport and train stations to outgoing passengers.
Meanwhile the state-run Beijing News said the capital had cancelled events including two well-known lunar new year temple fairs. Separately, the country’s railway operator, China State Railway Group, said passengers would be able to receive full refunds on tickets nationwide starting on Friday.
There have been 633 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, from the same family of viruses that gave rise to Sars. Officials worry the lunar new year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese will crisscross the country, will exacerbate an outbreak that has reached almost all of the country’s provinces, as well as the US, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Macau and Hong Kong.
Chinese authorities have confirmed 95 patients remain in critical condition. Seventeen people have died since the virus was detected in late December, all of them in Wuhan.’
Few pedestrians were out and families cancelled plans to get together for the new year holiday. Special police forces were seen patrolling railway stations. Residents and all government workers are now required to wear face masks while in public spaces. Most outbound flights from the city’s Tianhe airport were cancelled.
“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Dr Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, told Associated Press. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”