Topline: China has expanded its travel restrictions to at least 10 cities and cancelled major Lunar New Year celebrations as the death toll from a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak rose to 26.
At least 846 people are now infected with the virus in China and abroad, including in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, while people are being tested for possible symptoms of the pneumonia-like virus in the U.K. and U.S. Most of the 26 deaths occurred in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the outbreak began. Deaths were also recorded in Hebei province, as well as Heilongjiang province in north east China.
Disneyland in Shanghai, which often sells out during holiday periods, will be closed from Saturday, while 10 cities in Hubei province have suspended flights, rail and bus links. In total, some 33 million people are affected by the lockdown across Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Qianjiang, Zhijiang; Jingmen, Xiantao, Xiaogan and Huangshi. All the cities are located in Hubei province.
Beijing’s most famous tourist attraction, the Forbidden City, has been closed, while the Chinese capital also cancelled its Lunar New Year temple fairs. Macau and Hong Kong have also cancelled key celebration events.
Meanwhile, Wuhan hospitals are struggling to cope with the volume of patients , with clips on social media showing overcrowded hospitals. Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang has faced backlash on Chinese social media and calls to resign over his handling of the crisis following an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
Yesterday, experts at the World Health Organization concluded a two-day meeting on the matter and decided not to declare the coronavirus a global health emergency.Key background: China’s move to impose travel restrictions on 10 cities at the heart of the coronavirus, and moves to suspend key Lunar New Year celebrations, one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar, shows how seriously Beijing is now taking the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Chinese government’s move could have come too late as tens of millions of people prepare to travel home for the annual holiday potentially spreading the coronavirus even further.