China seals off more cities as virus toll rises
In an unprecedented quarantine initiative, China sealed millions of residents near the epicenter of a virus outbreak on Friday, shutting down public transport in an eighth city as the death toll from the disease rose to 26.
China confirmed a second death on Friday outside the epicenter of a SARS-like virus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people, bringing the total toll to 26 deaths. Officials say in Hubei, the central province home to Wuhan, the city known as the hub of the outbreak, 24 deaths have occurred.
The death was in Heilongjiang’s northeastern province, bordering Russia and some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Wuhan, the local government said.
While the World Health Organization avoided announcing a global emergency following confirmed cases in half a dozen other counties, China extended a lockdown now affecting some 26 million people and cancelled some celebrations of the Lunar New Year to prevent further spread of the disease.
The virus that erupted in Wuhan’s central city claimed eight more lives, the government said in its most recent update, as the number of confirmed cases also soared to 830.
The new virus has triggered concern due to its similarities to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which in 2002-2003 killed hundreds of people in mainland China and Hong Kong.
The WHO said China was in a state of emergency but it stopped short of making a declaration that would have sparked greater international cooperation, including potential restrictions on trade and travel.
But against a virus that has spread globally and to several other nations, the Chinese authorities took no chance.
The normally busy metropolis Wuhan, a major industrial and transportation hub in the center of the country, slid deeper into surreal isolation as China tightened the cordon of transportation around it and nearby towns.
With hundreds of millions of people traveling across the country this week for the Lunar New Year holiday, the government stopped all traveling outside the city, halted local public transport, and told citizens not to leave home.