Thu | Feb 27, 2020

China shuts down more cities in bid to contain deadly virus

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2020 | 9:41 AM
Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high-speed train station in Hong Kong, Thursday, January 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities Thursday moved to lock down three cities that are home to more than 18 million people in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded Wuhan’s train station, where metal barriers blocked the entrances at 10:00 a.m.

Only travellers holding tickets for the last trains out were allowed to enter. Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in the city of 11 million people were eerily quiet.

In addition to shutting down the train station, authorities closed the airport and halted ferry, subway and bus service.

Authorities announced similar measures would take effect Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou.

In Huanggang, theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment centres were also ordered closed.

In the capital, Beijing, authorities cancelled “major events” indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, in order to “execute epidemic prevention and control.”

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, said in an interview. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”

The illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in central China’s Hubei province.

The vast majority of mainland China’s more than 570 cases have been in the city.

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