Flights to China Cancelled; Wuhan Sealed Off

Health authorities across Asia have been stepping up surveillance and other precautions.
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China banned trains and planes from leaving the city of Wuhan at the centre of a virus outbreak on Thursday, seeking to seal off its 11 million people to contain the contagious disease that has claimed 17 lives, infected hundreds and spread to other countries. Authorities in Wuhan also suspended public buses and subways, and said residents should not leave “without a special reason”.

Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot cancelled its daily flight to China’s central city of Wuhan. Taiwan’s China Airlines said it would suspend flights to Wuhan from Jan. 23 to Feb. 29. China Airlines’ flights from Taipei leave from the city’s main Taoyuan international airport. Its sister carrier Mandarin Airlines is also cancelling flights from Taipei’s smaller Songshan airport to Wuhan.

 

More than 570 people infected

More than 570 people have been infected with the virus across China – with most cases found in Wuhan, where a seafood market that illegally sold wild animals has been identified as the epicentre of the outbreak.

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. 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.

Countries have intensified efforts to stop the spread of the pathogen – known by its technical name 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Passengers are facing screening measures at five US airports and a host of transport hubs across Asia. European airports from London to Moscow have also stepped up checks and Nigeria, which has many citizens working in China, said it would start checks at entry points.

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Chinese health authorities announced Wednesday that 440 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) had been reported in the country by the end of Tuesday. This has resulted in nine deaths, said Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, at a press conference, reported Xinhua news agency.

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that he expected the virus to be contained “with determination”, while Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced the creation of a group dedicated to fighting the illness.

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The World Health Organization will hold a meeting of experts on Wednesday to determine whether the current coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes an international emergency.

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