China locks down cities to curb virus

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As China stepped up measures to control the spread of coronavirus, locking down Wuhan and Huanggang cities in the Hubei province where several Indians live, the Indian Embassy in Beijing has set up hotlines for their assistance.

China's National Health Commission reported on Thursday that they're starting to see cases of people infected with the virus who have never travelled to Wuhan, according to Chinese state media outlet CGTN, further confirming the theory that this virus is able to be transmitted from person-to-person.

Experts say the United Kingdom is well equipped to deal with the virus but that authorities should take the risk seriously.

The WHO said on Thursday it was a "bit too early" to designate the outbreak a public health emergency of worldwide concern, which would require countries to step up their response.

The coronavirus sickened hundreds of people in Wuhan, China before spreading to other Asian cities.

World Health Organization issued its evaluation after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities earlier in the day and cancelled major events in the capital, Beijing, during the Lunar New Year holiday period to try to contain the new virus. The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.

Chinese officials said the measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus to other cities and the world.

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Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are locking down three cities that are home to more than 25 million people.

All of Huanggang's movie theaters and Internet cafes, as well as the central market, were to shut down.

"Airports and train stations that can be used to leave the city will be temporarily closed".

Three other cities in the province had restrictions announced on their public transport or roads, including Lichuan, a city with a population of almost 1 million.

Governor of Hubei province Wang Xiaodong told CCTV that closing off Wuhan had been a "very hard decision".

Many of those who died from the virus also had pre-existing health issues before contracting the Wuhan disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.

"The new pneumonia is our new common enemy", Shi Chengwei, a driver, told AFP.

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As for prevention, Tam rejected the idea of healthy people wearing surgical masks to keep from getting infected.

Although most coronaviruses cause mild cold-like symptoms, two types - SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) - can be fatal, having killed around 1,500 people between them in recent years.

Singapore and Vietnam confirmed their first cases on Thursday.

The World Health Organization decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency for now. "And if a traveller from Wuhan has respiratory symptoms or a fever, they will get tested for all the usual suspects in addition to, of course, then being tested for the novel virus".

Travel by train and air from Wuhan are now banned, though it's still unclear exactly how many people are being allowed to enter and leave the city by vehicle.

So far, the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, has sickened more than 640 people around the world, with cases reaching as far as the U.S. and leaving 18 dead.

While departures were banned, trains and airplanes were still allowed into the city, with the tourism and culture department canceling all group tours until February 8, state media reported.

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