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China Closes Wuhan City to Stop Spread of Deadly Virus

BEIJING – China on Thursday closed a city of more than 11 million people in an unprecedented effort to try to contain a deadly new viral disease that sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the lunar New Year travel rush.
Normally, the busy streets, malls, restaurants, and other public spaces in Wuhan were strangely quiet. Social media users have reported that cinemas are cancelling the screenings and have complained that food vendors are exploiting the situation with huge increases in the price of fresh produce.
Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded the city’s train station, where metal barriers blocked entry at 10 a.m. Only travellers holding tickets for the last trains were allowed to enter, those reserved for subsequent trains were being refused. Almost everyone on the scene wore masks, the live broadcast of The Paper website showed.
Local authorities demanded that all residents wear masks in public places and urged government personnel to wear them to work and for traders to display posters for their visitors, Xinhua quoted a notice as saying of the government.
Stations, the airport, subways, ferries and long-distance shuttles have been stopped in the city, an industrial and transportation hub in China’s central Hubei province.
Xinhua cited the city’s anti-virus task force as saying that measures have been taken to “effectively stop the spread of the virus, resolutely curb the epidemic and ensure the health and safety of the people.”
Diseases of a newly identified corona-virus first appeared in Wuhan last month, and the vast majority of 571 cases in mainland China occurred in the city. Other cases have been reported in Thailand, the United States, Japan and South Korea.
One case was confirmed Thursday in Hong Kong after another was previously confirmed in Macao. Most of the cases outside of China were people from Wuhan or who had recently travelled there.
A total of 17 people died, all in and around Wuhan. Their average age was 73 years, 89 older and 48 youngers.
The significant increase in illnesses reported this week comes from the fact that millions of Chinese are traveling for the Lunar New Year, one of the largest annual migrations of people in the world.
Analysts have predicted that the reported cases will continue to increase.
The corona-virus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS epidemic that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed around 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, which was developed from camels.
China wishes to avoid repeating errors in its management of SARS.
For months, even after the disease spread around the world, China has parked patients in hotels and taken them to ambulances to hide the real number of cases and avoid WHO experts.
In the current epidemic, China has been recognized for sharing information quickly, and President Xi Jinping said it was a priority.
“Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must give priority to the lives and health of people,” he said on Monday.
“There is a need to publish information on epidemics in a timely manner and to deepen international cooperation.”
The first cases of the Wuhan outbreak were linked to people who worked or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for investigation.
Experts suspect the virus was first transmitted from wild animals, but the virus could also mutate. Mutations can make it more deadly or more contagious.
Many countries are examining travellers from China for the disease, especially those arriving from Wuhan.
North Korea has banned foreign tourists, a measure it also took during the SARS epidemic and in recent years due to Ebola.
Most foreigners who go to North Korea are Chinese or travel through neighboring China.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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