China expands lockdowns and closes tourist sites as virus death toll rises to 26

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Chinese authorities have extended lockdowns and closed tourist attractions ahead of the Lunar New Year to curb a viral outbreak that has spread to all parts of the country except Tibet.

The deadly disease originated in the central city of Wuhan.

Authorities have placed 13 cities in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, under transportation control, affecting around 40 million people. Outside the epicenter, there have been major closures of events to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year and tourist attractions, including Beijing’s Forbidden City, parts of the Great Wall and Shanghai Disneyland.

Authorities reported a second death outside the epicenter of the disease in Suihua, a city in northern China’s Heilongjiang province. The first death reported by authorities outside Hubei occurred in Hebei province on January 23. Hubei and Hebei are not bordering.

In China’s Qinghai province, a 27-year-old man, who worked in Wuhan, has been quarantined at a local hospital for a possible coronavirus infection, according to Chinese news portal Sina. The latest suspected case makes Tibet the only region in China without any suspected cases of the virus.

In response to the crisis, more cities and provinces have raised their emergency response to level one, the highest of a four-tier system in China. These cities and provinces now include Hubei, Guangdong, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hubei, Anhui, Tianjin, Beijing and Shanghai.

Other cities in Hubei are closed in addition to Wuhan. According to Chinese media, at least 13 cities have imposed their own public transport bans, including Ezhou, Xiantao, Zhijiang, Qianjiang, Huanggang, Chibi, Xianning, Jingmen, Dangyang and Huangshi.

In Wuhan, roadblocks have been set up to stem the spread of the coronavirus, according to Reuters.

Local authorities in the city are building a new 1,000-bed makeshift hospital for virus patients, aiming to complete construction early next week.

Outside Hubei, tourist attraction sites are closed and public events are canceled ahead of the Lunar New Year festival. According to Chinese media, the Forbidden City in Beijing, some sections of the Great Wall near Beijing and Shanghai Disneyland will be closed from January 25.

In the southern province of Guangdong, authorities have asked cinemas in the province to close until the end of the Lunar New Year.

The cabinet-like General Office of the State Council announced that it would send officials to oversee governments and regional agencies in handling the crisis.

The announcement said those found responsible for “delayed reporting, concealment and failure to report” regional situations would be “severely dealt with in accordance with the law”.

A Chinese official is known to have contracted the virus. According to Chinese state media The Paper, Huang Mouhong, deputy bureau chief at Hubei’s provincial commerce department, tested positive.

Abroad

Outside of China, South Korea and Japan have reported a second confirmed case. Taiwan also reported two additional confirmed cases, bringing the total to three.

The virus has been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

On January 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus an emergency for China, but refrained from designating it an epidemic of international concern.

In Taiwan, authorities have confirmed two new cases — a Chinese woman and a Taiwanese man, both in their 50s — of coronavirus; both are quarantined in the hospital. The island now has three confirmed cases.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, a 55-year-old South Korean man, who worked in Wuhan, has tested positive for coronavirus. Before returning to South Korea on January 22, the man visited a Chinese clinic for flu symptoms, including a sore throat.

In Japan, a Wuhan man in his 40s who is visiting Japan has tested positive for coronavirus, according to local media. Before arriving in Japan on January 19, the man had visited a hospital in China twice on January 15 and 17.

A day after arriving in Japan, the man went to hospital with a fever and sore throat. During a second examination on January 22, doctors confirmed that he was infected with the Wuhan virus.

On January 23, the US State Department updated the wording of its travel advisory to Level 4, urging people not to travel to Hubei province. He also announced that he had ordered the departure of all non-emergency American personnel and their family members from the province.

In Hong Kong, local tourism businesses canceled tour groups to China during the Lunar New Year. According to Hong Kong media HK01, 90,000 people are affected by the cancellation.

Meanwhile, the number of suspected cases in Hong Kong rose by 66, bringing the total to 236. There are two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong.

Taiwan authorities have announced an export ban on surgical and N95 masks to allay public fear that there may be a shortage of face masks.

HK01 reported that mainland Chinese were buying face masks from pharmacies in Hong Kong’s Mongkok shopping district.

In Europe, Finland reported two suspected cases in the village of Ivalo, Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

In the Italian port city of Bari, a singer who recently performed in Wuhan has been suspected of having contracted the coronavirus.

According to the BBC, there were 14 suspected cases in the UK, all of whom had recently traveled to Wuhan.

In Australia, two of four suspected cases have been cleared of coronavirus, according to local news outlet ABC.

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Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news from the United States, China and Taiwan. He holds a master’s degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.

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