China enforced a lockdown Thursday on two cities at the epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people so far and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world scramble to prevent a global pandemic.
Hours after public transport was suspended in Wuhan city, authorities in neighbouring Huanggang city also said it was imposing a similar lockdown. As per news agency Reuters, authorities issued directions to suspend its public bus and railway system beginning from the end of Thursday.
Authorities also issued directions to shut indoor entertainment venues, including movie theatres and internet cafes in the city by the same deadline and urged citizens to not leave the city other than under special circumstances.
Earlier today, most transport in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended and people were told not to travel out of the city. Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.
The outbreak has so far killed 17 people and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world scramble to prevent a global pandemic.
12,828 passengers screened so far in India: Health Ministry
A total of 12,828 passengers from 60 flights have been screened for the novel coronavirus infection till January 22 but no positive case has been detected in the country so far, the Indian Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Thermal screening is being held at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin. The government has urged states and union territories to review hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance and laboratory support, an official statement said.
Even as MEA junior foreign minister had confirmed that a Kerala nurse working in Saudi Arabia had been tested positive for the new coronavirus, Indian Embassy in Jeddah, South Arabia, later clarified she has been diagnosed with MERS-CoV, and not 2019-NCoV.
An outbreak or not–WHO to decide
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also said it will decide Thursday whether to declare the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency or not. If it does so, it will be the sixth international public health emergency to be declared in the last decade.
Airports across the world have also stepped up screening of passengers coming from China. Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the further global spread of the virus was likely.
New Year events cancelled
In a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, authorities in the capital city Beijing Thursday canceled major public events including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, news agency Reuters reported.
China also fears that the transmission rate of the coronavirus will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.
(Inputs from Reuters, PTI)
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines