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Home / World News / Millions caught in central China lockdown, military doctors deployed to fight Coronavirus

Millions caught in central China lockdown, military doctors deployed to fight Coronavirus

Reports said the public transportation and travel restrictions could be affecting upwards of 35 million people in central China – that’s more than the population of NCR -- from where the previously unknown virus spread outwards.

world Updated: Jan 24, 2020 19:45 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Police officers wearing masks check the boot of a car for smuggled wild animals following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an expressway toll station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan.
Police officers wearing masks check the boot of a car for smuggled wild animals following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an expressway toll station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan.(REUTERS Photo)

The rapidly spreading novel Coronavirus has killed 26 people and sickened more than 880 people across China, health authorities said Friday as tens of millions in 14 cities were put under lockdown in an unprecedented attempt to control the outbreak.

For the first time, medical personnel from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were deployed at a civilian hospital in Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Italy reported its first suspected case of Coronavirus infection in a female singer who had performed in Wuhan recently.

Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the US have also reported Coronavirus cases.

Reports said the public transportation and travel restrictions could be affecting upwards of 35 million people in central China – that’s more than the population of NCR -- from where the previously unknown virus spread outwards.

Three cases of the novel coronavirus were reported among colleagues who are crew members in the same workshop at the high-speed rail’s passenger service section at Tianjin city-- some 100 km from Beijing.

Authorities put in place restrictions on public gatherings and tourist places including parts of the Great Wall of China (near Beijing) and the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Following the announcement of restrictions on public gatherings in Beijing, the Indian embassy cancelled the public flag hoisting ceremony on January 26 to mark the 71st Republic Day.

The unparalleled lockdown of millions in different cities of Hubei province – interlinked via busy highways, railways and air routes – will test the tenacity, resources and credibility of the Communist Party of China (CPC)-led government as it races to control the previously unknown virus, which can mutate and also be transmitted between humans.

CPC has a task at hand as the virus has triggered death, fear of a wider outbreak and anxiety in the lead up to the Lunar New Year (LNY), the most important event on China’s festival calendar.

Meanwhile, the first two deaths outside Hubei were reported on Friday.

One death was reported from Hebei, a province bordering Beijing, and a second from the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

Beijing with 34 cases and Shanghai have been put on the highest level of alert along with the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Guangdong.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million and at the epicentre of the outbreak, was suddenly quarantined on Thursday morning at a short notice and the residents were given a 10 am deadline before road, rail and air transport links were severed indefinitely.

In the following 24 hours, similar public transport restrictions were imposed on another 13 cities.

In another development, a national research team of 14 experts was set up to help prevent and control the latest novel coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced Friday.

The anti-virus research team is a part of the ministry’s emergency sci-tech project and will offer support on 10 research aspects, including virus tracking, transmission, detection methods, genome evolution and vaccine development.

It will be headed by respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan known for his work in China’s fight against the outbreak of Sars in 2003.

Chinese experts said most of those who died were elderly and had underlying health issues.

Meanwhile, the WHO says it is still too early to declare coronavirus as a public health emergency of international concern given its restrictive and binary nature. Such a designation would have required countries to step up the international response.

“Make no mistake, this is now an emergency in China, but this has not yet become a global health emergency,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, on Thursday (early Friday China-time) after an emergency meeting of the organisation in Geneva.