China coronavirus: 26 dead, while eight cities on lockdown
- Travel bans have been imposed on eight cities in Hubei province: Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan
- A Hebei victim, aged 80, was visiting relatives in Wuhan before he was diagnosed; 76 people who had close contact with him have reportedly been quarantined
China’s deadly coronavirus has claimed 26 lives, authorities have announced. Hubei officials have responded to the crisis by imposing travel bans on eight of its cities, including the province’s capital of Wuhan, local authorities said.
The virus claimed its first victim outside Hubei province, with a fatality in Hebei province, near Beijing. The health commission in Hebei said in a statement that the victim, aged 80, died on Wednesday and that the cause was not confirmed until Thursday.
Before the diagnosis, the man, a resident of Hebei, had been visiting relatives in Wuhan for more than two months, according to Hebei Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece in the province.
Hebei Daily said that 76 people who had been in close contact with the victim have been quarantined and that none had been found to be feverish.
China’s finance ministry on Thursday announced the allocation of 1 billion yuan (US$144 million) to be used by Hubei authorities to halt the spread of the illness that has infected more than 800 people.
Eight cities in Hubei – Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan – are now subject to travel bans, according to notices released by local governments.
Ride-sharing in Wuhan is also being suspended. According to a statement posted by Didi, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, the company’s services will be halted at noon on Friday at the request of Wuhan outbreak command authority.
Wuhan is a hub for several major high-speed railway lines that link it to China’s major cities; Beijing is four hours directly north by train, while it takes 4½ hours to reach Hong Kong, and Shanghai is almost six hours away.
The start of the Lunar New Year – a period when many Chinese travel the country for family reunions – this week has increased the risk of transmission throughout the country and abroad.
As of Thursday night, coronavirus cases had been diagnosed in multiple provinces, the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and six other countries.
Flights, trains, buses and ferries connecting Wuhan to other cities in Hubei have been suspended, according to a report in People’s Daily.
Hubei authorities also have suspended operations at local travel agencies and ordered all schools to postpone the start of spring semester classes, according to the newspaper, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece.