NEWS
24/02/2020 07:30 GMT | Updated 24/02/2020 08:18 GMT

Coronavirus: China Revokes Wuhan Announcement Easing Lockdown

The local government said it had reprimanded the people responsible for the earlier announcement, made just hours ago.

Chung Sung-Jun via Getty Images

An announcement that Wuhan would relax some of its travel restrictions and allow some people to leave was made without authorisation and has been revoked, local government in China has said.

The city at the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak that has already killed more than 2,500 people said it would continue to impose strict controls over its borders in order to prevent the virus from spreading further.

It said it had reprimanded the people responsible for the earlier announcement that healthy people would be allowed to leave if they had vital business.

The earlier announcement came amid signs that the spread of the virus in China was slowing, with more than 20 province-level jurisdictions reporting zero new infections on Sunday and several regions lowering their emergency response levels.

Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, has been under lockdown for a month. It reported 348 new infections on Sunday, and 131 deaths.

The city alone has seen an accumulated 46,607 cases of infection, amounting to around 60% of China’s national total.

South Korea’s fourth-largest city Daegu grew increasingly isolated as the number of infections there increased rapidly, with Asiana Airlines and Korean Air suspending flights to the city until March 9 and March 28 respectively.

“If we cannot block the spread in the Daegu region in an effective way, there are high possibilities it would lead to a nationwide transmission,” Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip told reporters.

In Europe, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would talk to his European counterparts soon to discuss how best to cope with a possible epidemic in Europe, after Italy reported a third death from the flu-like virus and 150 infections, from just three before Friday.

“Tonight, there is no epidemic in France. But there is a problematic situation at the door, in Italy, that we are watching with great attention,” Veran told a news conference.

In mainland China, where the virus originated late last year, more than 20 province-level jurisdictions including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as provinces such as Henan and Anhui, reported zero infections, the most since the outbreak began.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, photo, sumo wrestlers wearing masks arrive at Shin Osaka railway station in Osaka, western Japan. A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 79,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. (Kyodo News via AP)

China President Xi Jinping urged businesses to get back to work though he said the epidemic was still “severe and complex, and prevention and control work is in the most difficult and critical stage”.

Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi and Guizhou provinces lowered their coronavirus emergency response measures from the most serious level, joining the provinces of Gansu and Liaoning to relax restrictions on movements.

Excluding Wuhan, mainland China reported 11 new cases of coronavirus, the lowest number since the national health authority started publishing nationwide figures on January 20.

The virus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed more than 2,500 in China, mostly in Wuhan.

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to about 28 other countries and territories, with a death toll of around two dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

Italy sealed off the worst-affected towns and banned public gatherings in much of the north, including halting the carnival in Venice, where there were two cases, to try to contain the biggest outbreak in Europe.

Austria suspended train services over the Alps from Italy for about four hours after two travellers showed symptoms of fever. The train carrying about 300 passengers from Venice, Italy, to Munich in Germany was allowed to continue after the two tested negative for the new coronavirus.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said a coronavirus task force would meet on Monday to discuss whether to introduce border controls with Italy.