Wuhan, a Chinese city of nearly nine million people, has announced that it would temporarily shut public transport as it struggles to halt the outbreak of a new virus.
Bus, subway, ferry, and long-distance transport networks will shut down from 10:00 local time on 23 January, while the city’s airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers, the city’s authority said in a statement on Wednesday.
The outbreak has killed 17 people, and there are more than 500 confirmed cases as the virus spreads across the Chinese border to Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong and the United States of America.
Known as 2019-nCoV, the virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously been identified in humans. The Sars virus that killed nearly 800 people globally in the early 2000s was also a coronavirus.
The virus originated in a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”, the city’s authorities said.
All fatalities so far have been in Hubei, the province around Wuhan.
Those living in Wuhan have been advised not to leave, in a week when millions of Chinese are travelling for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The residents have already been told to avoid crowds and minimise public gatherings.
Meanwhile, the emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) has postponed its decision to declare a “global emergency” over the virus.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO said more time was needed to reach a decision.
He said: “This is a complex and evolving situation,”.
“The decision about whether or not to declare public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”
Discussions will continue on Thursday, WHO said in a statement.