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Beijing cancels large-scale Lunar New Year events over virus fears

Update: January, 23/2020 - 19:59

A passenger stands in the arrivals hall at the near-deserted Wuhan train station. AFP/VNA Photo

 
BEIJING Large-scale Lunar New Year events in Beijing have been cancelled as part of national efforts to control the spread of a new SARS-like virus, city authorities announced on Thursday.

Chinese authorities have been telling people to avoid crowded places over the busy Spring Festival holiday to try and halt the spread of a new coronavirus which has infected over 570 people.

The city government said it would call off events including temple fairs --which have attracted massive crowds of tourists in past years -- urging citizens "to strengthen prevention and support".

In a post on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, city authorities added that the move was to help epidemic prevention and control.

Beijing's city government said they would provide more information "as the epidemic situation evolves."

The central city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged, was put on lockdown on Thursday, with outbound trains and planes indefinitely suspended. Tollways on roads out of the city were closed as well.

Neighbouring Huanggang announced that public transport and rail services would be suspended at midnight, while a train station was to be closed in a third city, Ezhou.

Beijing Tourism Net, which is regulated by the city's Bureau of Culture and Tourism, added in a separate Weibo post that the Beijing Ditan and Longtan Temple Fairs -- originally scheduled for January 25 to 29 -- would be cancelled.

The fairs, which have been held for roughly three decades according to Xinhua, saw 1.4 million Chinese and foreign tourists over five days last year.

Beijing Tourism Net added the Tanzhe Temple Scenic Area, Jietai Temple Scenic Area, and Miaofeng Mountain Scenic Area in Mentougou District would also  be closed.

 

AFP Graphic on Wuhan where China has warned against travel to or from the virus-stricken city.

Dubai to screen all passengers from China

Dubai Airport, one of the world's biggest aviation hubs, said on Thursday it would carry out thermal screening of all passengers arriving from China amid an outbreak of a deadly virus.

"Dubai Airports confirms... that all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People's Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival," a statement said.

China has locked down two major cities to fight the spread of the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and spread to a number of other countries.

Dubai's government said on Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year and that the number was expected to cross the one-million mark in 2020. Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the airport in 2019.

"The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Centre team," the statement said.

Dubai International Airport in 2018 served 89.15 million passengers, retaining its world-number-one spot of welcoming the largest number of foreign passengers for the fifth year in a row.

There was no announcement as yet from authorities in the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi which also has a large airport.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract. AFP

 

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