Thursday, 23 January 2020


The authorities expanded travel restrictions to several Chinese cities near Wuhan, the epicenter of a mysterious outbreak of coronavirus, hours after announcing that 17 people had died and more than 570 had contracted the disease.
The restrictions on train and other forms of travel will apply to tens of millions of people and come just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of people travel around and out of the country.
The Chinese authorities on Thursday morning closed off Wuhan — a major port city of more than 11 million people and the center of a respiratory virus that has spread halfway around the world — by canceling flights and trains leaving the city, and suspending buses, subways and ferries within it.
By evening, officials planned to close off Huanggang, a city of seven million about 30 miles east of Wuhan, shut rail stations in the nearby city of Ezhou, which has about one million residents, and impose travel restrictions on the smaller cities of Chibi and Zhijiang as well.
In Huanggang, public transportation and departing trains would were to stop service at midnight. Residents would not be allowed to leave the city without special permission, according to a government statement. In Ezhou, all rail stations were to be closed.
In Wuhan, residents said that a sense of fear was growing as the city went into lockdown.
The new virus, which first emerged at the end of December, has killed at least 17 people and sickened more than 570, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. It has raised the specter of a repeat of the SARS epidemic, which broke out in China in 2002 and 2003 and spread rapidly while officials obscured the seriousness of the crisis. That virus eventually killed more than 800 people worldwide.
Roughly 30,000 people fly out of Wuhan on an average day, according to air traffic data. Many more leave using ground transportation like trains and cars. The city is the hub of industry and commerce in central China, home to the region’s biggest airport and deepwater port.
The sudden restrictions could upend the travel plans of millions of Chinese citizens, who travel in huge numbers during the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Friday. The government said it would close Wuhan’s airport and train stations to departures, and it urged residents not to leave the city unless they had an urgent reason to do so.
In Beijing, the government said it would cancel large public gatherings for the holiday, including fairs at temples that usually draw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and the Forbidden City, a popular tourist attraction in the heart of the capital, will close starting on Saturday.

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