China shuts down transport in 8 cities around virus epicenter

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 24 2020 11:36 AM

Chinese paramilitary officers wearing masks stand guard at an entrance of the closed Hankou Railway Station after the city was locked down following the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 23, 2020. China Daily via Reuters

BEIJING - China has now shut down bridges, halted public transport and closed a major airport to restrict the movement of some 26 million people around the epicenter of a deadly virus outbreak.

Huangshi, with a population of 2.4 million, became the latest city in Hubei province to shut transport routes Friday as it closed a ferry terminal and bridge over the Yangtze River, and suspended public transport.

The move followed the suspension of long-distance passenger buses, tourist coaches and public transport from Thursday night in Qianjiang, a city in central Hubei with a population of nearly one million people.

Authorities said the measures were to prevent and control the spread of the new coronavirus, which has since infected more than 800 people and killed 25.

The virus first emerged from Wuhan in Hubei province, where a seafood market has been identified as the center of the outbreak.

It has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Trains and planes were halted from leaving Wuhan on Thursday as the city was placed under effective lockdown. Passenger boats and buses were also forbidden from entering the city.

Other cities with travel restrictions include Xiantao, a city of 1.5 million, and Chibi, which has some 500,000 people, which will close toll station entrances and halt transport routes.

The cities of Ezhou, Huanggang, and Lichuan have also announced travel restrictions.

Hubei province authorities said they were calling off cultural performances and public cultural venues.

Travel agencies in the province have suspended business activities, and are no longer organizing tour groups, authorities said in an announcement on Friday.

From 0400 GMT, the province will also stop operating online taxis and impose passenger restrictions on taxis on the roads.