President Of China Describes The Situation As Serious; Ban Tours In China By Coronavirus

The president of China said Saturday that the accelerated expansion of a new virus is a serious situation, while cities from the center of the country to Hong Kong were taking steps to stop an outbreak that has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41.

President Xi Jinping, whose statements were reproduced by the state broadcaster CCTV, spoke at a meeting of leaders of the Communist Party on the Lunar New Year holiday.

Travel agencies have been ordered to stop all group tours, the China Travel Services Association reported. Chinese tourists travel around the country and abroad during the New Year.

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The city of Wuhan, which is in quarantine for being the epicenter of a new virus, on Saturday prohibited the circulation of almost all vehicles through the center, and Hong Kong said it will close the schools for two weeks, in an attempt by the authorities for limiting the spread of the disease.

The Hong Kong government labeled the outbreak as an emergency and will close primary and secondary schools two more weeks, when the Lunar New Year holiday ends, explained the chief executive of the semi-autonomous Chinese city, Carrie Lam. The educational centers will reopen on February 17.

In addition, Hong Kong will prevent the arrival of trains and direct flights from Wuhan, he added. The outbreak began in that city in central China and expanded to the rest of the country and abroad, thanks in part to the millions of trips during the most important holiday of the year.

The vast majority of infections and deaths were recorded in mainland China, but new cases continue to appear. Australia and Malaysia reported their first patients on Saturday and Japan, the third. France announced on Friday three cases in the first time this ailment appears in Europe. And the United States identified the second, a woman from Chicago who was hospitalized after returning from China.

The new virus comes from the coronavirus family, and some cause only cold-like pathologies. Wuhan's causes symptoms similar to a cold or flu, with cough and fever and, in the most severe cases, respiratory problems. It can get worse and lead to pneumonia, which could be lethal.

China suspended transport to the city on Wednesday, including trains and airplanes, in addition to public transport within the city, and imposed similar isolation measures in 16 nearby cities, totaling 50 million inhabitants, more than New York, London, Paris and Moscow together.

The cities of Yichang, Suizhou and Jingzhou were the last to enter the quarantine list on Friday night and Saturday.

Wuhan went a step further on Saturday by announcing that it prohibits the circulation of all types of vehicles in the center after midnight, state media reported. The only authorized ones will be those used to distribute basic products or cover other needs, they added.

The city, where 11 million people live, will allocate 6,000 taxis to different neighborhoods, which are managed by resident committees, to help with travel if necessary, said the Chinese-speaking Chinese newspaper China Daily.

The country's main holiday, the Lunar New Year, began in the shadow of the worrying new virus. The authorities canceled a series of events planned for the anniversary and closed access to tourist attractions and movie theaters.

The National Health Commission reported on Saturday a sharp increase in the number of infected, with 1,287 cases and 41 deaths. The count covers 29 provinces of the country and includes 237 patients in serious condition. The 41 deaths occurred in China: 39 in Hubei Province, one in Hebei and one in Heilongjiang.

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