The death toll from the new coronavirus now stands at 106, with the number of infections almost doubling in a day to more than 4,500. The rise comes as governments scramble to control the spread of the virus. Hong Kong is going to slash cross-border travel with mainland China. The virus has spread across China and to at least 16 countries globally, according to BBC reports. Wuhan, as well as wider Hubei province, are already effectively in a lockdown with strict transport restrictions in and out of the area. Wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some Chinese cities.
On Monday, authorities in Beijing confirmed a 50-year-old man had died – the first fatality in the Chinese capital from the virus. Hours later, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the high-speed rail line between the territory and mainland China would be suspended from Thursday. Flights, buses and ferry services will also be cut down drastically in an effort to halt the virus’s spread to the city – a global financial centre.
The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and there is no specific cure or vaccine. Most of the deaths have been in Hubei province. The initial victims were mostly elderly people or those with pre-existing respiratory problems, but few details have been released about the dozens of deaths confirmed in recent days. A total of 60 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery, according to Chinese state media.
Efforts to stem the spread of the virus have coincided with the Lunar New Year celebration, which usually sees millions travel across the country to visit relatives and friends. To try to stop the spread of infections, many of the new year festivities have been suspended and the holiday period has been extended by three days to Sunday.