In a step-up of precautionary measures against the spread of coronavirus ( 2019-nCoV), Chinese authorities have now imposed travel restrictions across 10 cities in the Hubei province, which is seen as the epicentre of this viral outbreak.
As of Friday, the death toll has climbed up to 26 while the number of patients affected stands at over 830 in the whole of China due to the novel Coronavirus. This deadly outbreak is being compared with a similar tragic episode in the early 2000s during the outbreak of SARS.
The BBC reported that the travel ban will now impact 20 million people including the city of Wuhan which is the capital of the province bordering Russia. Al Jazeera estimated the number of people to be affected to be around 40 million.
Reports said roadblocks have been put in place and major buses, subways, ferries, outgoing trains and planes have also been cancelled ahead of January 25, a traditional Chinese holiday set to be celebrated as the Lunar New Year.
Media reports suggested other provinces majorly affected were Heilongjiang provinces and Hebei. The outbreak has also resulted in some of the tourist attractions in national capital Beijing to be shut down.
Outside China, there have been reported cases from neighbouring Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore.
TNM has earlier reported that Saudi authorities have confirmed that a nurse from Kerala has not been affected by the same virus but a different strain of the virus called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on January 9 had first confirmed the outbreak of the new strain of the coronavirus. According to health officials from China, the deceased all had been battling underlying health conditions (such as diabetes, hypertension etc) which led the disease to rapidly progress and lead to their deaths.
So far scientists believe that the virus was transmitted to people from a meat market in China’s Wuhan province and possibly from snakes. TNM has earlier reported on a study that was published in the Journal of Medical Virology earlier in the week suggested snakes, specifically the Chinese Krait and the Chinese Cobra, may have been the original source of the virus.
Snakes were sold abundantly in Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market before it was closed after being identified as the centre of the outbreak.
Experts have also said that the current strain of the virus called ‘2019-nCoV’ appeared to be a strain that was related to a strain of the virus found in bats and another strain of unknown origin.