The death toll in China’s coronavirus outbreak has risen to 26 and the number of confirmed cases now stands at 830, Beijing says.
It comes as ten cities in China have suspended public transport services – some of those have also shut public venues such as temples and entertainment venues.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak an emergency but said it was “too early” to consider it a “public health emergency of international concern” given “its restrictive and binary nature”.
Speaking at a press conference, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China.
“But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”
Image: Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China
Image: Passengers wear face masks at the Ninoy Aquno Iternational Airport in Manila, Philippines
An 80-year-old patient with coronavirus died in Hebei on Thursday – the first confirmed death outside Hubei province where the outbreak began.
He had shown symptoms of the virus upon his return from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives.
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Wuhan is the capital of Hubei and has been the epicentre of the outbreak of the coronavirus first detected last month.
The virus has since spread to Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the US, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Four cases have been found in Thailand, two in Hong Kong and the autonomous region of Macau, and one each in the US, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore.
In the UK, 14 people have been checked for coronavirus – five tested negative and nine are still waiting for results, Public Health England said.
Chinese authorities have locked down ten cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 25 million in an unprecedented effort to stop the virus from spreading to other parts of the world.
The airport and train station in Wuhan have been shut down, while ferry, subway and bus services have been halted.
The city’s 11 million residents have been ordered to wear masks in public places and at work.
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People were pictured stocking up on fuel and there were empty shelves in supermarkets ahead of what could be weeks of relative isolation.
Similar measures are being enforced in the city of Huanggang, which has a population of six million, as bus and train services were suspended and cinemas and internet cafes were told to shut.
Image: A disinfection worker wearing protective gears spray anti-septic solution on a train in Seoul, South Korea
Image: Commuters wear face masks on a train in Bangkok, Thailand
Meanwhile, nearby Ezhou has shut its train stations, and the Chinese capital Beijing has cancelled major public events including two new year temple fairs, as part of the action to control the outbreak.
Millions of people in China are preparing to travel domestically and abroad for its lunar new year celebrations this weekend.
Image: Several people are being tested for the coronavirus in the UK
Overnight, the Chinese government released a breakdown of 17 people killed by the deadly virus.
All but two of the 13 men and four women were aged over 60. Ten of the victims had a pre-existing condition.
There is no vaccine for the new viral infection, which can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.
The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Image: People in Hong Kong are wearing masks on the streets to protect themselves against the spread of the virus
Sky’s Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire, who has been in Wuhan, said: “What had previously been a quiet, tense atmosphere in Wuhan, is now a lot edgier.
“Now the city, cut off, must cope on its own.”
Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, the WHO has said the primary source is probably an animal.
The virus originated in Wuhan at the end of last year and has since spread to 25 provinces across mainland China.
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Airports around the world – including in Dubai, Australia and South Africa – have stepped up screening of travellers arriving from affected regions.
Measures are also in force in the UK to guard against the virus, including taking aircraft to a special designated area of Heathrow’s Terminal 4.
Meanwhile China’s central bank said it would temporarily raise the limit on small bank batch payments to 500 million yuan (£55m) from Friday until 30 January to ease fund transfers amid the outbreak.
In Singapore, schools have asked parents to declare overseas holiday plans as authorities screened travellers at air, land and sea checkpoints to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as SARS – which killed nearly 800 people during the 2002-03 outbreak.
When a new strain emerges that has not yet been identified, as with the current outbreak, it becomes known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV).
Source : Sky News