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China to close section of Great Wall to control virus spread

Adds four more cities to transport ban, 41 million people now affected

Beijing rushes to build new hospital for virus within 10 days


Beijing, Jan 24 (AFP / RTE) China on Friday added four more cities to a transport ban around the epicentre of a deadly virus, bringing the number affected by the shutdown to over 41 million as authorities scramble to control the disease.

Authorities in Xianning, Xiaogan, Enshi and Zhijiang cities -- all located in Hubei province where the virus first emerged -- said public transport services including train stations would be closed.

Some cities also announced the closure of entertainment venues including theatres and karaoke bars.

Part of the Great Wall of China is being closed in a bid to control the virus spread.

The Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda will also be closed from tomorrow, the authority that oversees the sites said, while the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing closed today, in order to "prevent and control" the spread of the virus.

While the World Heath Organization held off on declaring a global emergency, despite confirmed cases in half a dozen other counties, China expanded a lockdown and cancelled some Lunar New Year celebrations to prevent the disease spreading further.

Beijing is rushing to build a new hospital in a staggering 10 days to treat patients at the epicentre of a deadly virus outbreak that has stricken hundreds of people, state media reported Friday.
The facility in the central city of Wuhan is expected to be in use by February 3 to serve a rising number of patients infected by a coronavirus that has left at least 26 people dead and millions on lockdown in an effort to curb the spread.

Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state broadcaster CCTV.

It will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square metres, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Construction began as reports surfaced of bed shortages in hospitals designated as dealing with the outbreak, which has now infected 830 people across China.

Xinhua said the new facility is aimed at "alleviating the shortage of medical treatment resources and improving the ability to care for patients".

In 2003 China erected a hospital on Beijing's rural outskirts in barely a week to cater to a rapidly rising number of patients suffering from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Xiaotangshan Hospital consisted of prefabricated structures and Xinhua reported Friday that Wuhan was building the new facility based on the same model.

The city of over 11 million people has been centralising its treatment of the new virus by isolating patients in 61 clinics and designated hospitals.

Chinese officials have said the virus likely originated from wild animals at a seafood market in the city but it has since spread to several countries around Asia and beyond.

The outbreak has prompted authorities in at least eight Chinese cities to impose travel restrictions and cancel public events to curb the spread.

Chinese authorities were taking no chances against a virus that has spread nationwide and to several other countries.

Beijing has cancelled massive gatherings that usually attract throngs at temples during the New Year holiday, while the historic Forbidden City will close from tomorrow. According to RTE reports

The respiratory virus emerged from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan in late December. It has spread to several other countries including the United States.

The National Health Commission said that of the 830 cases in China so far, 177 are in serious condition. Authorities were also examining 1,072 suspected cases.

"This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters after two days of talks in Geneva.

He hailed China for taking the preventive measures but added "we hope that they will be both effective and short in their duration."

China has been praised for its response, in contrast to the SARS epidemic when it took months to report the disease and initially denied WHO experts any access.

Health authorities have said most fatalities have been aged between 48 and 89 and already suffered from pre-existing health conditions.



(AFP / RTE)

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