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Chinese authorities lock down second major city in response to spread of new virus

Officials say at least 444 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in China’s Hubei province.

Staff of Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
Staff of Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Jan 23rd 2020, 11:06 AM

CHINA HAS LOCKED down a second major city in response to the spread of a new respiratory illness that has killed 17 people.

Authorities in Huanggang announced that public transport and train services from the city will be suspended at midnight, while cinemas, internet cafes, and the central market have also been forced to close.

It follows the introduction of similar measures in Wuhan, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated.

Hundreds of people have been infected with the virus since it emerged from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, and it has been detected as far away as the United States.

However, no cases of the disease have been detected in the UK or Ireland.

Residents in Wuhan were told earlier today not to leave “without a special reason”, an order which was backed by a transport shutdown.

Trains and planes out of Wuhan were indefinitely suspended, tollways on roads out the city were closed, leading to fear and panic for those who were trapped.

A third city, Ezhou, announced that it’s train station had been temporarily closed earlier today.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, repeating advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), advised travellers to China to change their plans.

The Department said that while the risk of contracting the disease is low for travellers and foreign residents, there is a possibility that travel could be disrupted by increased quarantine and containment measures employed by the Chinese government.

It added that the Irish embassy would continue to monitor the situation.

WHO experts are set to meet again today to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency over the virus.

It had been expected to make the decision yesterday, but said it needed more information, describing the emergence of the disease as an “evolving and complex situation”.

Following a meeting of an emergency committee yesterday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said: “There was an excellent discussion during the committee today, but it was also clear that, to proceed, we need more information.

“For that reason, I have decided to ask the emergency committee to meet again tomorrow to continue their discussion and the chair, Dr Houssin, has agreed with that request.

“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”

 With reporting from Stephen McDermott and - © AFP 2020

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