China has closed off access to Wuhan, and is poised to lock down two neighbouring cities, in an unprecedented effort to try to stop the spread of a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush.
A total of 25 people have died from a newly identified coronavirus, all of them in China, according to Chinese health authorities on Friday.
The illnesses first appeared last month in Wuhan, and the vast majority of mainland China's 830 cases have been in the city, Chinese state media said. The update Friday morning also confirmed the first death outside the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.
Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded Wuhan's train station as last-minute travellers arrived, only those holding tickets for the last trains allowed to enter. At exactly 10 a.m. local time, metal barriers blocked entrances while helpless would-be travellers were turned away, with some complaining they had nowhere to go.
Virtually everyone at the scene was wearing masks, news website The Paper's live broadcast showed. People have been lining up to buy them at pharmacies, which limited sales to one package per customer. Medical workers wore protective suits outside a hospital where some patients with the viral respiratory illness are being treated.
"To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science," Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's (WHO) representative in China, said.
"It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work."
Local authorities have demanded all residents wear masks in public places and urged government staff to wear them at work and for shopkeepers to post signs for their visitors, Xinhua quoted a government notice as saying.
WATCH | Chinese city at centre of outbreak locked down
Read More (...)