See More on Facebook

Wuhan virus: China locks down five cities at epicentre of outbreak

Move to curb virus’ spread across world comes as experts race to crack its code.

Written by

Updated: January 24, 2020

China has taken the unprecedented move of locking down cities at the heart of a new Sars-like outbreak that has spread swiftly across provinces and the world, killing at least 17 and infecting more than 630.

In a dramatic effort to curb the sweep of the mutating virus, officials in Wuhan announced at midnight on Wednesday that the city, where the mystery coronavirus originated last month in a wet market that sold live animals, was being sealed off.

Last night, the authorities in the surrounding cities of Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi and Xiantao in the same Hubei province in central China also imposed travel restrictions. The toughest measures were taken in Huanggang, where the train station was shut, roads closed and bus and ferry services suspended. Hubei has borne the brunt of the outbreak, accounting for over 90 per cent of those infected.

As experts raced to crack the virus code, the city and provincial authorities battled day and night to deal with the fallout as the number of sick people overwhelmed hospitals and clinics at the epicentre.

Health officials fear the numbers will soar as more travel home and abroad during the annual Chinese New Year break today and in the coming week. The authorities in Huanggang, a city of seven million, shut indoor entertainment venues like cinemas and Internet cafes, and ordered residents to wear face masks.

All over the country, face masks and disinfectants have been sold out. Mask producers are keeping their factories open over the national holiday and offering their workers up to four times their wages to restock emptied shelves.

In the capital city of Beijing, the authorities announced the closure of the Palace Museum from tomorrow, citing nationwide efforts to contain the spread of the Wuhan virus. It did not say when the museum – the city’s top draw – will reopen, but offered refunds for booked tickets.

Several large-scale Chinese New Year events were also called off in Beijing, including popular temple fairs that typically draw huge crowds.

As many as seven movies, all scheduled to be released during the Chinese New Year holidays, have had their launch dates shelved.

Yesterday, more provinces, territories and countries reported their first cases of infection: The western region of Xinjiang confirmed two, as did Gansu, while Jilin had one. Hong Kong and Vietnam had two cases each, while Singapore identified its first.

Three separate research teams are expected to begin work on developing potential vaccines against the virus, according to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The plan is to have clinical trials on at least one potential vaccine by June.

Scientists scrambling to uncover the source of the virus have said it could be from badgers, rats or snakes. Chinese researchers believe snakes are the most likely culprits, after analysing the virus’ genetic profile. Eminent infectious disease expert Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, has also said badgers and rats could be potential sources.

Chinese stocks took their most severe beating in eight months yesterday, suffering a 3.04 per cent loss as investors became nervous about the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a World Health Organisation expert panel met again last night, after delaying its decision on whether to declare the outbreak a global emergency.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

China pledges international pandemic aid

 Producers of medical goods urged to meet demand from affected countries. China has pledged to do its best to offer aid to countries and international organisations affected by COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak, and businesses are being urged to boost production of epidemic prevention materials to meet demand from abroad. The announcement was made at a meeting of the leading group of China’s coronavirus response, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Relevant departments and local authorities must step up co-ordination to closely monitor and analyse the quick spread of the outbreak outside China and roll out more targeted measures to prevent the import and export of infection, the group said in a statement. It is important to further

By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Back to work in Beijing, with tough measures in place

 Mandatory quarantine for those coming from overseas; some Wuhan businesses may reopen. As most of China attempts to return to normalcy after an extensive lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the capital Beijing has been carefully trying to strike a balance between having people restart work while also trying to keep out imported infections, and yesterday ordered a mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals. This comes as the Hubei government announced that some businesses in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, would gradually be allowed to reopen. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, his first visit to the city since the outbreak, a sign that the crisis could finally be easing after the government’s toug

By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Xi vows victory over coronavirus in Wuhan

President expresses condolences to families of people who died in epidemic. President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak remains the top priority and most important task, even amid the recent positive signs. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark during his inspection tour in the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, Xi said, adding that initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan. Xi encouraged local residents and front-line worke

By China Daily
March 11, 2020

China sets example in fighting virus

Epidemic reveals inadequacies in global governance; Beijing says it’s ready to help. China’s response to novel coronavirus pneumonia has set an example for the world in coping with the contagion and offered experience in advancing global public health governance, officials and experts said. The COVID-19 outbreak has also raised the alarm about global public health security and reminded countries that co-operation and co-ordination are needed to deal with challenges as infectious diseases can rapidly escalate into global emergencies, they said. There is a growing positive momentum in epidemic control nationwide thanks to the “comprehensive, thorough and rigorous” measures that China has taken to contain the virus, they said, noting that the daily

By China Daily
March 10, 2020

More than 800,000 people return Beijing under quarantine

“There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. About 827,000 people who came back to Beijing from outside the city are still in a 14-day quarantine to see if they had been infected with the novel coronavirus, an official said on Friday. “There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. Z

By China Daily
March 9, 2020

South Korea declares third city as special care zone as cases spike

President Moon receives letter of support from North Korean leader as infected cases cross 6,000. South Korea has declared a third city a “special care zone” to boost its capability to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, with cases nationwide soaring beyond 6,000. The death toll stands at 42, mostly the elderly with underlying health conditions, while 88 people have recovered, including 47 discharged yesterday. The care zone announcement came as the presidential Blue House revealed that South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a letter on Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing support and comfort to the people battling the coronavirus outbreak, adding that he is confident they will “prevail in this fight wit

By The Straits Times
March 6, 2020