Airline stocks tumbled on Thursday along with broader Hong Kong and China markets, after the government placed a travel ban on Wuhan city, the origin of a spreading new coronavirus strain that has infected hundreds and led to 17 deaths. Wuhan, a major transportation hub and the capital of Hubei province, has been in lockdown since 10am on Thursday morning, after the government shut down all public transport in and out of the city in an effort to contain the virus outbreak. Citizens were told by the government not to leave the city “without special reasons”. The markets extended brutal losses from Tuesday – when the Hang Seng plunged by the most in over five months – after a mild rebound on Wednesday. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.5 per cent by the lunch break, on track for its biggest loss since November. The Hang Seng Index dived 1.7 per cent. The key question is whether the outbreak will last for months and affect the overall aviation market in China and even the whole of Asia, as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) did in 2003, said Luya You, a transportation analyst at Bocom International. “The market is pricing in the worst case scenario, which is Sars,” said You. “Some people might say it’s a bit of an overreaction compared to how many people were infected.” A lot of airports, including Hong Kong’s, were basically empty during Sars, she said. The passenger volume of Cathay Pacifc Airways plummeted by 75 per cent in May 2003 from the same period in 2002. In Wuhan, some 200 flights had been cancelled by 9am on Thursday, according to a report by local newspaper Chutian Metropolis Daily . A total of 600 aeroplanes were previously scheduled to land or depart from the airport, the report says. “A few route cuts and frequency cuts are not that big of a deal, but the bigger impact would be when it escalates and affects all of China or Asia,” You said. By Thursday lunch time, Hong Kong-listed shares of Air China had fallen 3.2 per cent to HK$6.74, bringing the loss so far this week to 13.5 per cent. Cathay Pacific shed 2.3 per cent, while China Eastern Airlines dropped 3.4 per cent. Companies based in or with major operations in Wuhan were under pressure. Wuhan-based carmaker Dongfeng Automobile declined by 2 per cent to 4.41 yuan in Shanghai. Its Hong Kong-listed shares dropped 0.9 per cent to HK$6.6. Smartphone and home appliance maker Xiaomi Corp, which opened a second headquarters in Wuhan last year, tumbled by 3.6 per cent. The world’s largest display panel maker, BOE Technology Group , which launched the construction of a 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) industrial park project in Wuhan last year, shed 1.2 per cent to 4.86 yuan in Shenzhen. Other consumer sectors also took a beating. Macau casino operators suffered a sharp fall after a second case of the infection was confirmed in the city, and the government cancelled all celebratory events over the upcoming Lunar New Year. Melco International Development led the declines with a 5 per cent drop to HK$18.64. Film production companies sank on expectations of weaker demand over the Lunar New Year holiday, which is usually a peak season for box office income. A gauge compiled by data provider Xuangubao tracking 43 producers fell 2.2 per cent. Tourism-related stocks led the declines, with a gauge of 54 companies weakening 2.5 per cent, according to data provider Xuangubao. China United Travel, an operator of travel agencies and transportation services, plummeted by the daily 10 per cent limit.