The virus has now infected at least 444 people across the country, with most cases in Wuhan city, heightening global fears of contagion from an infection suspected to have come from animals.

Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, January 22, 2020.
Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, January 22, 2020. (AP)

The death toll from China's new flu-like virus in Hubei province has risen to 17 and the total number of confirmed cases has risen further, state TV reported on Wednesday, citing the provincial government.

In recent developments, China announced that the origin city of Wuhan under quarantine, outbound flights, ferries buses and trains were shut down. People were asked not to leave Wuhan without specific reasons. 

Meanwhile, the WHO reports that they have not seen third or fourth generation transmission of the coronavirus in China or a secondary level spread in countries it has spread to.

The province confirmed 444 total cases of the coronavirus, which emerged in its capital Wuhan, as of 8 pm local time (1200 GMT). The previously reported death toll in China was nine, all in Hubei province.

Wuhan has urged people to stay away, cancelling a major Lunar New Year event, as it strives to contain a disease that has spread across the country.

The disease is spreading just as hundreds of millions of people are travelling in packed trains, planes and buses across China to gather with friends and family for the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Friday.

Measures to control outbreak

Wuhan's mayor Zhou Xianwang urged residents to not leave the city and visitors to avoid it so that the possibility of transmission can be reduced.

"If it's not necessary we suggest that people don't come to Wuhan," Zhou told state broadcaster CCTV.

Fever scanners have been set up at the city's train station and airport and officials check the temperatures of drivers at highway checkpoints, while outbound tour groups have been banned from leaving the city of 11 million people.

The National Health Commission announced measures on Wednesday to curb the spread, including disinfection and ventilation at airports and bus stations as well as inside planes and trains.

The vast majority of cases have been found in Wuhan, where a seafood market that illegally sold wild animals is the primary suspect for the outbreak.

The virus, which can be transmitted between humans and could mutate, has also infected people in other countries including the US, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

The Wuhan government said in a notice on Tuesday that it will cancel activities during China's Lunar New Year holiday, the most important event in the Chinese calendar.

Wuhan has cancelled the annual prayer-giving at the city's Guiyuan Temple and has closed the temple – which attracted 700,000 tourists during last year's holiday.

This year, city authorities said 30,000 tourists had already booked tickets to new year celebrations and 200,000 free event coupons had been distributed.

The Wuhan New Coronavirus Infected Pneumonia Prevention and Control Headquarters said it would cancel public events that were not "necessary."

All local artistic and theatre performances have been cancelled, it said, and the museum is closed.

It has also pulled plans to send opera troupes around rural areas during the holiday.

Tour groups leaving the city have also been cancelled.

Police are conducting spot checks for live poultry or wild animals in vehicles exiting and entering the city.

"We already know that the disease originated from a market which conducted illegal transaction of wild animals," Gao Fu, director of the Chinese centre for disease control and prevention, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"This might be the cause, so the disease could be on an animal, and then passed on from this animal to a human."

Football qualifiers moved from Wuhan

Women's football qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympic Games will be moved from Wuhan to another location in the country, the Asian Football Confederation said on Wednesday.

Wuhan was supposed to host China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia for the Group B qualifiers February 3-9, but they will now be held on the same dates in the eastern city of Nanjing, AFC said in a statement.

It said the change was proposed by the Chinese Football Association.

Turkey takes steps against coronavirus

Turkey has prepared thermal cameras and other precautions against the spread of the new flu-like coronavirus, but currently has no cases or at-risk patients, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.

Turkey's new Istanbul Airport is a major international hub, handling more than 50 million passengers last year, and flag-carrier Turkish Airlines operates daily flights to destinations in China including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

"We have preparations, including taking a risky patient from China to our quarantine room and taking them to the hospital via a specially designated ambulance," Koca told Turkey's Anadolu Agency.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) did not recommend thermal cameras for Turkey, but we took all precautions anyway, including thermal cameras."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies