No-one is being allowed to leave the Chinese city of Wuhan in the Hubei province after the death toll from the coronavirus that is known to have originated from the city rose to 17.
Wuhan’s local government said it would close all urban transport networks – buses, subways and ferries – and suspend outgoing flights from the city’s airport as of 10am on Thursday, state media reported, adding that the government said citizens should not leave the city unless there were special circumstances.
All people who venture into public places in Wuhan have been told to wear a face mask. This includes hotels, restaurants, cinemas, parks and shopping centres.
North Korea has also closed its borders to foreign visitors due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Most tourists to North Korea are either Chinese or travel to the country through neighbouring China.
More than 450 people are known to have the coronoavirus, which can be transmitted from person-to-person. Most of the cases are in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, but dozens of infections have emerged around the country – Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong – as millions travel for the Lunar New Year holiday, one of the world’s largest annual migrations of people. A handful of infected people who came from Wuhan have also been found overseas, AP News reported.
Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.
Wuhan, China’s seventh-largest city of 11 million people, had its first known case of the previously unknown virus on 31 December. The virus appears to have a long incubation period of 8 to 10 days and has likely spread further, Foreign Policy reported.
In Geneva, the World Health Organisation has yet to decide if it will declare the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency and has asked its expert committee on the issue to continue meeting for a second day on Thursday. The organisation defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.
China’s National Health Commission Vice Minister Li Bin said the virus, which can cause pneumonia and has no effective vaccine, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
It is believed that the virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”.