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A new coronavirus that has killed 26 people in China was confirmed in Europe for the first time on Friday as it spreads despite Chinese attempts to quarantine the city at the heart of the outbreak.
China closed Shanghai Disneyland and part of the Great Wall and suspended public transportation in 10 cities as it rushed to contain the virus, stranding millions of people at the start of the country’s Lunar New Year holiday.
France reported two cases on Friday evening, the first ones discovered in Europe. More were likely, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million where the virus was first identified, is in virtual lockdown. Nearly all flights at Wuhan’s airport have been canceled and checkpoints block the main roads leading out of town.
As the city slides into isolation, pharmacies have begun to run out of supplies and hospitals have been flooded with nervous residents. The city is rushing to build a 1,000-bed hospital by Monday, state media said.
Despite the lockdown, the virus is already spreading further afield.
The vast majority of the cases and all of the deaths have been in China, but it has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal and the United States. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the new virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases, both in people who had traveled to Wuhan.
Following a congressional briefing by health officials, Republican U.S. Senator John Barrasso, a former physician, said people in the United States with the virus may have been infected up to 14 days ago in China.
“We want to try to stop and prevent people from coming to the United States if they have it,” Barrasso told reporters, without providing details of how that might be accomplished.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China.
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.
It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.
Read more. Reuters
Published: February 1, 2020
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