Chinese authorities have locked down five cities and the national capital Beijing is scrapping Chinese New Year festivities amid the widening coronavirus outbreak.
The 11.2 million residents of China’s largest inland city, Wuhan, awoke Thursday morning with a combination of fear and anger that the government has confined them to a metropolis-sized quarantine zone.
Other cities that have since had their transportation links (buses, subways, ferries, airplanes, and trains) cut as China steps up its fight to contain the virus are Huanggang (population 7.4 million), Ezhou (population 1.05 million), Chibi (population 478,410), and Zhijiang (population 495,995).
The Guardian reports:
Officials worry the weeklong lunar new year holiday, which begins on Friday and usually sees hundreds of millions of Chinese crisscross the country, will exacerbate an outbreak that has reached almost all of the country’s provinces.
The state-run Beijing News said the capital had cancelled events including two well-known lunar new year temple fairs. The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.
While sweeping measures are typical of China’s communist government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties. And the effectiveness of such measures is unclear.
“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million 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.”
Pictures on social media from Wuhan appear to show people in hazmat suits approaching unconscious or dead people in the streets.