The second city in China is going into lockdown to try and stop the spread of a deadly new virus which has emerged in the country.
Authorities in Huanggang today announced it would suspend its public buses and trains as well as ordering cinemas and internet cafes to close their doors.
The development comes as Wuhan – the city at the centre of the outbreak – nears the end of its first day in lockdown, with all flights out of the city cancelled and residents told not to leave.
Videos have shown chaos in Wuhan today, with footage depicting a government worker using gas to disinfect park, traffic building up on a blocked highway and people scrapping over food in a crowded supermarket.
Travellers have spread the coronavirus to 7 countries already and European health officials say ‘further global spread is likely’, adding it’s likely to make it to Europe.
The World Health Organization has not yet decided what action to take and is expected to meet again today to consider whether it is an international emergency.
Scientists yesterday warned as many as 10,000 people could have been infected in Wuhan alone and said they couldn’t rule out the virus already being in the UK.
The British Government has stepped up measures to stop the virus, with passengers on the last flight from Wuhan last night being channelled through a separate area of London’s Heathrow airport.
The virus, which can cause pneumonia, has never been seen before so is poorly understood, but scientists now suggest it may have spread to humans from snakes.
Officials yesterday banned Wuhan’s 11million residents from travelling and ordered them to wear face masks in public to control the spread of the SARS-like infection.
Clips posted on Twitter claim to show the impact the unprecedented decision has had, with deserted streets reminiscent of the disaster film 28 Days Later.
Traffic has piled up on the city’s major roads which have been blocked by police vans enforcing travel bans.
In one video an eerily quiet street is seen being ‘disinfected’, with billowing fumes filling the air, while another shows huge ‘quarantine tents’ lining a neighbourhood.
Social media users complained that shops have bumped up the price of fresh produce and shoppers have been seen physically fighting a crowded supermarket.
China and other countries around the world have stepped up their defences against a virus which has already killed more than a dozen people.
Officials say at least 581 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, most of which are in China’s Hubei province.
The virus, which goes by the name of nCoV2019, emerged in Wuhan in December from a food market and spread to other countries by travellers.
Wuhan has been put in lockdown ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday when thousands of people were expected to travel.
Elsewhere in the world, including the UK, airports are taking the temperature of any passenger that flies in from Wuhan. Screening ‘is not foolproof’, however.
Chinese state media said Wuhan had its train stations and airport closed, while ferries and long-distance buses have also been stopped.
Twitter footage posted by @mxmbt2 shows traffic building up on a main highway.
He wrote: ‘[They] are not letting us leave Wuhan. The [highway] out of the city is blocked and we cannot leave. The [highway] to Xiaogan has been blocked. [The traffic] is jammed.’
Another video posted by @Dystopia992 shows police vans stopping cars from passing, causing gridlock traffic late at night.
Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops can be seen guarding the city’s train station, where metal barriers are blocking the entrances.
Most people are protecting themselves with face masks after local authorities demanded people do so in public places to stop the illness spreading.
‘To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11million people is new to science,’ Gauden Galea, the World Health Organisation’s representative in China, told the Associated Press.
‘It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.’
An Oxford University expert yesterday said the outbreak so far has been ‘extraordinary’.
Dr Peter Horby said: ‘We haven’t seen this large-scale spread since Sars.’
Speaking about whether he thought the World Health Organization should declare it an international emergency, he added: ‘ There are three criteria – one, is this an extraordinary event? Two, is it spreading internationally? Three, is an international response required? In my opinion, all three of these have been met.’
Source: Daily Mail