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China coronavirus: Death toll rises to 25, eight cities locked down to prevent spread

PTI, Jan 24, 2020, 11:53 AM IST

Beijing: The death toll in China’s deadly coronavirus has climbed to 25 with confirmed cases rising sharply to 830, prompting authorities to lock down eight cities to prevent its spread, officials said on Friday.

A total of 1,072 suspected cases have been reported in 20 provincial-level regions, according to the National Health Commission.

By Thursday, 830 confirmed cases of pneumonia, caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), reported in 29 provincial-level regions in the country, it said.

The pneumonia situation resulted in 25 deaths, including 24 in the central Hubei province and one in the north Hebei, the National Health Commission said.

As the virus spread in the country and the world, China on Thursday locked down eight cities, including Wuhan, suspending all public transport in an unprecedented move to contain the coronavirus, dampening the celebrations of the Lunar New Year.

Eight cities in Hubei province Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang, and Lichuan are now subject to travel bans, according to notices released by local governments, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have first emerged, has halted all transport.

According to the health commission in the northern Hebei province, which borders Beijing, an 80-year-old man diagnosed with the new virus died on January 22.

The victims’ average age is 73, with 89 being the oldest and 48 youngest. So far 631 cases have been confirmed in 25 provincial-level regions in the country.

As of Thursday night, coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in 23 provinces, four municipalities, the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and six other countries.

Hubei authorities have suspended operations at local travel agencies and ordered all schools to postpone the start of spring semester classes, said People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

China’s finance ministry on Thursday announced the allocation of one billion yuan (USD 144 million) to be used by Hubei authorities to halt the spread of the illness, the report said.

The Wuhan lockdown is a cause of concern for Indian students who still remained there. The city has about 700 Indian students, the majority of them studying medicine. However, most of the students have apparently left for home for the holidays.

As concerns grew over their safety, the Indian embassy on Thursday opened helplines and established contacts with the concerned Chinese officials to ensure food and other supplies to those who remained in the city.

In a new disclosure, Chinese officials on Thursday confirmed fresh cases of coronavirus in people who did not even travel to Wuhan recently.

The National Health Commission also reported increasing the number of cases with no exposure to Wuhan’s Hunan seafood wholesale market, which is believed to be related to most of the infected cases. The cases without confirmed exposure to the market have been found overseas.

The virus, which a doctor in Wuhan told BBC is spreading at an alarming rate, has dampened the Chinese New Year celebrations beginning Friday.

Chinese all over the world formally bid goodbye to the year of the pig and welcomed the year of a rat on Friday. The Chinese government has given week-long holidays.

In view of the virus scare, several cities including Beijing have canceled special events. The festival is also known as the Spring Festival.

Large cultural activities during the spring festival in Beijing such as temple fairs were canceled to prevent the spread of the virus.

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