Beijing, 24 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Some 37 million people in Chinese cities were affected by travel bans on Friday, as authorities aimed to curb the spread of a new virus that has infected at least 876 people across the country.
Twenty-six patients had been reported dead as of Friday, including two patients outside of Hubei province, where the new coronavirus is believed to have originated, according to the National Health Commission.
At least 11 cities had announced they were suspending train and long-distance bus services despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had been planning to travel to their home towns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts this weekend.
The cities that have so far imposed transportation bans include Wuhan, Chibi, Lichuan, Xiantao, Ezhou, Huanggang, Xianning, Qianjiang, Huangshi, Jingzhou and Dangyang, according to local governments and state media.
In spite of a rising death toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was “too early” to declare an international health emergency over the outbreak.
The real number of patients could be much higher, as many in Wuhan are reportedly unable to receive treatment due to overcrowding in hospitals.
Experts at Imperial College in London estimated a total of 4,000 cases had symptoms by January 18.
The new coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a disease that infected 8,000 people and killed 800 globally in a 2002-03 pandemic that also started in China.
Cases of the disease have been reported in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United States, as well as in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.