China: Death toll rises to 26 as more cities are shut down

CHINA has widened a lockdown in Hubei province the centre of the coronavirus outbreak as the death toll climbed to 26. The travel restrictions will affect at least 20 million people across 10 cities, including the capital Wuhan, where the virus emerged. On Thursday, a coronavirus patient died in nearby Hebei province making it the first death outside Hubei.
Another death was later confirmed in north-east Heilongjiang province. Nationally, there are currently 830 confirmed cases of patients infected with the virus. The lockdown comes on the eve of Lunar New Year, one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel home. Travel restrictions vary from city to city though many places have suspended transport services. In Wuhan, all bus, subway and ferry services have been suspended and all outbound planes and trains cancelled.
Residents have been advised not to leave, and roadblocks have been reported. Ezhou, a smaller city in Hubei, shut its railway station. The city of Enshi has suspended all bus services.
The impact of the coronavirus is not limited to Hubei province. Authorities have also cancelled major public events in other parts of the country. The virus has spread across China and to countries as far as Japan, Thailand and the United States. Wuhan is home to around 11 million people. A hospital is being built which will accommodate 1,000 bed to deal with the increasing number of victims.
The World Health Organisation has not classed the virus as an “international emergency”, partly because of the low number of overseas cases.
“It may yet become one,” said the WHO’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Vietnam and Singapore were on Thursday added to the nations recording confirmed cases, joining Thailand, the US, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Other nations are investigating suspected cases, including the UK and Canada.