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Millions quarantined as China scrambles to halt virus

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Beijing, Jan 28 (AFP/APP):China has quarantined millions of people and urged its citizens to delay overseas travel as it scrambles to stop a deadly coronavirus epidemic from spreading further.

Authorities also ordered schools and universities to remain closed on Tuesday after extending a national holiday by a week in a bid to contain an outbreak that has already killed more than 100 people and spread to a dozen countries.

Earlier the government shuttered major tourist attractions from Disneyland to a stretch of the Great Wall and rolled out draconian transport restrictions in areas worst affected by the virus. Here is a rundown of the measures taken so far in an unprecedented effort:

More than 56 million people are subject to travel curbs in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected. Public transport has been stopped in 18 cities there, with train stations shut, events cancelled and theatres, libraries and karaoke bars closed in some locations.

The epicentre of the outbreak is provincial capital Wuhan, the biggest city on lockdown, where the government has halted all travel out of the Yangtze River metropolis of 11 million.

Wuhan residents have been told to stay home and authorities have restricted car traffic in the city centre.
Similar quarantine measures are being taken in nearby cities, with strict controls on weddings and funerals, temperature screenings for new arrivals, and the suspension of online taxi services.

Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities have suspended the entry and departure of long-distance bus services.

More than 400 inter-province train services were cancelled, most until February 8-9 but some for weeks.
China’s immigration agency has also asked citizens to delay international travel to stop the virus from spreading elsewhere overseas.

Authorities had already suspended both domestic and overseas Chinese group tours over the weekend.
Tourists from Hubei in Haikou, capital of the island province of Hainan, were told by the city government they had to spend 14 days in a hotel for centralised medical observation, and were forbidden to leave.
Hundreds of millions of people criss-crossed the country last week return to their families for the Lunar New Year holiday, in what is typically a joyous time of gatherings and public celebration.

Instead, public health officials asked China’s 1.4 billion citizens to confine themselves at home until all is clear. Schools and universities across the country were ordered not to reopen until further notice on Tuesday, a day after the holiday break was extended to try and reduce the spread of the virus.

Wuhan and Beijing had earlier cancelled public events that usually attract hundreds of thousands of people to temples during the New Year holiday. The historic Forbidden City, a sprawling imperial palace in Beijing and one of the country’s most revered cultural sites, was closed from Saturday.

Other famous landmarks including a section of the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda are also not open to visitors. Tibet’s Potala Palace was shut down on Monday. Disneyland theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong have closed down indefinitely.

Women’s Olympics football qualifiers scheduled for next week in Wuhan have been moved out of the country and will now be held in Sydney.