From temples to Disneyland, China shuts down to halt virus

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 26 2020 12:47 AM

A woman wearing a mask is seen at a waiting area for a train to Wuhan at the Beijing West Railway Station, ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China Jan. 20, 2020. Cities near ground zero have been locked down to prevent the spread of the virus. Reuters/Stringer.

China has quarantined cities and shut major tourist attractions from Disneyland to the Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall as it scrambles to stop a deadly SARS-like virus from spreading further.

The drastic moves come as hundreds of millions of people crisscrossed the country in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially started Friday and is typically a joyous time of gatherings and public celebration.

Here is a rundown of the measures taken so far in an unprecedented quarantine effort:

Cities under lockdown 

Public transport has been stopped in 13 cities in central Hubei province, with train stations shut, events cancelled and theaters, libraries and karaoke bars closed in some locations.

The epicenter of the outbreak is provincial capital Wuhan, the biggest city on lockdown, where the government has halted all travel out of the Yangtze River metropolis of 11 million.

Wuhan residents have been told to stay home and authorities are limiting the number of taxis allowed on roads. There are few flights available to the city, deepening the isolation.

Similar quarantine measures are being taken in the other, smaller cities. These include strict controls on weddings and funerals, temperature screening of people as they arrive and the suspension of online taxi services.

More than 41 million people in total are affected by the city shutdowns.

Festivities cancelled 

Wuhan and Beijing have cancelled public events that usually attract hundreds of thousands of people to temples during the New Year holiday.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has asked China's 1.4 billion citizens to forego New Year gatherings and confine themselves at home until all is clear.

To discourage nationwide travel, the government also said all tickets for rail, air, road, or water transport could be refunded.

Attractions closed

The historic Forbidden City, a sprawling imperial palace in Beijing that is one of the country's most revered cultural sites, will temporarily close from Saturday.

Other famous landmarks including a section of the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda are also not open to visitors.

Shanghai Disneyland said it would shut for an indefinite period "to ensure the health and safety of our guests and cast".

Women's Olympics football qualifiers scheduled for February 3-9 in Wuhan have been moved to the eastern city of Nanjing.

Temperature checks 

Staff in full body protective suits were seen checking the temperatures of people entering a subway station in Beijing on Friday.

The country has ordered sterilization and ventilation at airports and bus stations, as well as inside planes and trains, while travelers are being screened for fever.

Health authorities are urging people to wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded places, get plenty of fresh air and wear a mask if they have a cough.

In Wuhan, city authorities have made it mandatory to wear a mask in public places.

In response to skyrocketing demand for masks -- starting to sell out at pharmacies and on some popular websites -- China's industry and information technology ministry said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply".

A new hospital 

In Wuhan, authorities are rushing to build a new hospital in a staggering 10 days as a rising number of patients are infected by the new coronavirus.

The facility is expected to be in use by February 3 and will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square meters, according to state media.

Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state broadcaster CCTV.

Its construction began after reports surfaced of bed shortages in hospitals designated as dealing with the outbreak, which has now infected 830 people across China.