Published: Mon, January 27, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

China extends holiday as virus spreads, Mongolia closes its borders

China extends holiday as virus spreads, Mongolia closes its borders

Two dozen new deaths reported in Hubei Province - the heart of the outbreak - and another in the southern island province of Hainan on Sunday, bringing the overall death toll to 81.

The government of Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people and a global business centre, extended the holiday by an additional week within the city to February 9.

Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have left many from the Chinese mainland wary of visiting that popular destination and more likely to travel farther afield.

The US consulate in Wuhan plans to evacuate staff and some other Americans on a charter flight, while France and Japan are considering similar decisions. It said it's working on arranging a bus service to help French citizens leave Wuhan.

French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has a factory in Wuhan, said it was moving foreign employees and their families by bus to be quarantined in another city.

With the virus having spread to around a dozen countries, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus headed to Beijing to meet government officials to discuss "providing further protection against the outbreak", he said on Twitter. With Canada became the 16th country to have reported cases, the other countries which have been affected so far include Australia, France, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, Vietnam, China, and Hong Kong. Public transportation has been severely restricted.

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The epidemic has brought back memories of the SARS epidemic that started in China and killed almost 800 people when it spread around the world in 2002 and 2003. It was predicting a return to slow but steady growth in 2020 and beyond, and it isn't clear how the outbreak and latest travel restrictions might change that.

The health commission said anyone travelling from Wuhan is now required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days - the virus' maximum incubation period.

Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to travellers from Hubei, starting Monday. On Sunday, officials banned the use of most vehicles in the downtown area and said 6,000 taxis would be made available should people need to get around.

Wuhan is building two makeshift hospitals with around 1,000 beds each to treat patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week. This has unnerved many residents in the city-state who still vividly remember SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the last major Coronavirus pandemic to sweep the country which resulted in 32 deaths between November 2002 and July 2003.

The virus is suspected of having come from animals in a market that sold a wide range of exotic wild game.

Chinese officials announced Sunday that the country was banning indefinitely the trade of wildlife products in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and on e-commerce platforms.

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