On January 23rd, all public transportation and outbound traffic at airports and railway stations in Wuhan, a Chinese megacity with a population of over 11 million, was suspended.
This was an effort to counter the rapidly spreading coronavirus – 2019-nCoV. The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged in late 2019, from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for an investigation.
As of most recent data, provided by Xinhua, a total of 17 people had died and 571 cases were confirmed in 25 provincial-level regions by the end of January 22nd.
Later on January 23rd, two cities sitting to the east of Wuhan announced the suspension of railway and public transport, in an effort to curb the spread of a novel coronavirus.
Wuhan’s neighboring city of Ezhou announced that the local railway station has been closed since 11:20 a.m. until further notice, and public transportation, including buses, intercity and long-distance coaches as well as ferries, has been suspended since 4:00 p.m. The city has a population of around 1 million.
The other city Huanggang announced that it will suspend city buses and long-distance coaches, as well as outbound trains from 12:00 a.m. on January 24th. The city is quite big, sitting at approximately 7.5 million people.
Travel restrictions were imposed on the smaller cities of Chibi and Xiantao as well. Chibi has a population of 480 thousand, while Xiantao has a population of 1.1 million, thus it is as big as Ezhou.
In the capital, Beijing, officials canceled “major events” indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, in order to “execute epidemic prevention and control.”
The Forbidden City, the palace complex, that is now a museum in Beijing said that it will close indefinitely starting from January 25th.
Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns will last.
“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, said in an interview. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”
In the current outbreak, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that as a priority.
“Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must put people’s lives and health first,” Xi said on January 20th. “It is necessary to release epidemic information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation.”
The World Health Organization convened its emergency committee of independent experts on January 23rd to consider whether the outbreak should be declared a global health emergency, after the group failed to come to a consensus.
The U.N. health agency defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.
A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel to and trade with affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease-reporting requirements on countries.
As of 00:14 Beijing time on January 24th, there is still no report of the WHO meeting having finalized with a decision.
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