China shut part of the Great Wall and suspended public transport in 10 cities, stranding millions of people at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday on Friday as authorities rush to contain a virus that has killed 26 people and infected more than 800.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus an “emergency in China” but stopped short of declaring it of international concern.
While restrictions on travel and gatherings have already been imposed to curb the outbreak, China will take stricter and more targeted measures, state television reported citing a State Council meeting on Friday, but gave no further details.
“The spread of the virus has not been cut off … Local authorities should take more responsibility and have a stronger sense of urgency,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
The Defense Ministry said it was organizing military medical experts to help tackle the virus, without giving details.
Most 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.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases. Britain held an emergency response meeting.
While health officials have been at pains to say it is too soon to evaluate the severity of the outbreak, the newly identified coronavirus has triggered alarm because it is too early to know how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.
Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. Most of the fatalities have been elderly, many with pre-existing conditions, the WHO said.
As of Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said there were 830 confirmed cases and 26 people had died.