China ex­tends Lu­nar New Year in wake of out­break

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE -

BEI­JING (AP) — China ex­tended its Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day three more days to dis­cour­age peo­ple from trav­el­ing as it tries to con­tain the spread of a vi­ral ill­ness that has caused 80 deaths, the gov­ern­ment said to­day.

There were 2,744 con­firmed cases by mid­night Sun­day, the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion an­nounced.

Tens of mil­lions of Chi­nese who vis­ited their home­towns or tourist spots were due to re­turn home this week in the world’s largest move­ment of hu­man­ity, rais­ing the risk the virus might spread in crowded trains and planes.

The of­fi­cial end of the hol­i­day will be post­poned to Sun­day from Fri­day to “ef­fec­tively re­duce mass gath­er­ings” and “block the spread of the epi­demic,” a Cab­i­net state­ment said.

Schools will post­pone re­open­ing af­ter the hol­i­day un­til fur­ther no­tice, the state­ment said.

Some 769 new cases were con­firmed Sun­day and more than 30,000 peo­ple who had con­tact with pos­si­ble cases were un­der med­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion, the Health Com­mis­sion re­ported.

The gov­ern­ment also re­ported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Ma­cao.

Scat­tered have been found in Thai­land, Tai­wan, Ja­pan, South Korea, the U.S., Viet­nam, Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Aus­tralia. The U.S. has con­firmed cases in Wash­ing­ton state, Chicago, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has called the out­break a grave sit­u­a­tion and said the gov­ern­ment was stepping up ef­forts to re­strict travel and pub­lic gath­er­ings while rush­ing med­i­cal staff and sup­plies to the city at the cen­ter of the cri­sis, Wuhan, which re­mains on lock­down with no flights, trains or buses in or out.

While warn­ing the virus’s abil­ity to spread seemed be get­ting stronger, China’s Health Min­is­ter Ma Xiaowei said travel re­stric­tions and other strict mea­sures should bring re­sults “at the low­est cost and fastest speed.”

The U.S. Con­sulate in Wuhan plans evac­u­ate its per­son­nel and some other Amer­i­cans aboard a char­ter flight. France and Ja­pan were weigh­ing sim­i­lar de­ci­sions.

The epi­demic has re­vived mem­o­ries of the SARS out­break that orig­i­nated in China and killed nearly 800 as it spread around the world in 2002 and 2003. Its spread has come amid China’s busiest travel pe­riod of the year, when mil­lions criss­cross the coun­try or head abroad for the Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day.

A no­tice from the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing said there would be lim­ited ca­pac­ity to trans­port U.S. cit­i­zens on a Tues­day flight from Wuhan that will pro­ceed di­rectly to San Fran­cisco. It said that in the event there are not enough seats, pri­or­ity will be given to in­di­vid­u­als “at greater risk from coron­avirus.”

The French Con­sulate also was con­sid­er­ing an evac­u­a­tion of its na­tion­als from the city. It said it’s work­ing on ar­rang­ing a bus ser­vice to help French cit­i­zens leave Wuhan.

French au­tomaker PSA Group said it will evac­u­ate its em­ploy­ees from Wuhan, quar­an­tine them and then bring them to France.

Ja­pan was also mak­ing prepa­ra­tions to fly its na­tion­als out of Wuhan.

Chi­nese travel agen­cies have been told to halt all group tours, and con­cern is grow­ing over the po­ten­tial im­pact of mil­lions of peo­ple trav­el­ing back to the cities af­ter the Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day ends on Thurs­day.

China’s Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion said any­one trav­el­ing from Wuhan is now re­quired to register with com­mu­nity health sta­tions and quar­an­tine them­selves at home for 14 days — the virus’ max­i­mum in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod.

In the heart of the out­break where 11 mil­lion res­i­dents are al­ready on lock­down, Wuhan banned most ve­hi­cle use, in­clud­ing pri­vate cars, in down­town ar­eas.

China cut off trains, planes and other links to the city Jan. 22, and has steadily ex­panded the lock­down to 16 sur­round­ing cities with a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of more than 50 mil­lion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Am­bu­lance crew mem­bers in pro­tec­tive gear wait for a pa­tient Sun­day out­side an apart­ment block in Wuhan in cen­tral China’s Hubei Prov­ince.

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