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WUHAN VIRUS: China shuts down transport in nine cities

Passengers wearing protective facemasks are checked by security personnel wearing hazardous material suits at the entrance to the underground train station in Beijing on January 24, 2020, to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan. PHOTO AFP

Beijing, China | AFP |  China Friday added a ninth city to a transport ban around the epicentre of a deadly virus, restricting the movement of some 32 million people as authorities scramble to control the disease.

Jingzhou, with a population of 6.4 million, said Friday that all services departing from its railway station will be suspended from 0400 GMT.

The city is the latest in a string of cities in central Hubei province to impose travel restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus which has infected more than 800 people.

Public buses, passenger transport, tourism buses, ferries and other boats will temporarily stop operations as well.

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

More than 25 have died due to the virus, which 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.

Huangshi, with a population of 2.4 million, shut transport routes Friday as well as closing a ferry terminal and bridge over the Yangtze River, and suspending 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.

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.

The virus has hit China in the midst of its Lunar New Year holiday, typically marked by family gatherings and public celebrations.

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

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

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

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

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

bys/rox/rma

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