China expands lockdown against virus, fast-tracks hospital

  • A medical worker writes their colleague’s name on a protective suit to aid in identification as they work. Xinhua via AP

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, image from China's CCTV video, a patient is carried on a stretcher to an ambulance in Wuhan, China. China is swiftly building a hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with a new virus that sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities home to millions of people during the country's most important holiday. (CCTV via AP)

  • A security officer wears a hazardous materials suit at a subway station in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year holiday. (AP Photo/Yanan Wang) Yanan Wang

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, image from China's CCTV video, a patient is carried on a stretcher to an ambulance by medical workers in protective suits in Wuhan, China. China is swiftly building a hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with a new virus that sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities home to millions of people during the country's most important holiday. (CCTV via AP)

  • Passengers wear face masks as they wait for a train at a subway station in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures' potential for success is uncertain. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein

  • People wear masks on a street in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Cutting off access to entire cities with millions of residents to stop a new virus outbreak is a step few countries other than China would consider, but it is made possible by the ruling Communist Party's extensive social controls and experience fighting the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) Kin Cheung

  • A worker wearing a hazardous materials suit gives directions to a passenger at a subway station in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures' potential for success is uncertain. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein

  • A conductor wears a face mask as a train arrives at a subway station in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures' potential for success is uncertain. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein

  • Heavy equipment works at a construction site for a field hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country's most important holiday. (Chinatopix via AP)

  • People wear face masks as they shop for decorations for the upcoming Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rat, at a market in Fuyang in central China's Anhui Province, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China is swiftly building a hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities home to millions of people during the country's most important holiday. (Chinatopix via AP)

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, photo, a staff member wearing a hazardous materials suit hauls a bin at a hospital that reported a coronavirus death in Yichang in central China's Hubei Province. China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country's most important holiday. (Chinatopix via AP)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020 photo, a man wears a face mask as he walks past a display for the upcoming Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rat, in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. A virus that has killed more than two dozen people and sickened hundreds more has all but shut down China's biggest holiday of the year, the Lunar New Year. Instead of family reunions or sightseeing trips, many of the country's 1.4-billion people are hunkering down as the country scrambles to prevent the illness from spreading further. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) Mark Schiefelbein

  • Police officers patrol as passengers queue at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Cutting off access to entire cities with millions of residents to stop a new virus outbreak is a step few countries other than China would consider, but it is made possible by the ruling Communist Party's extensive social controls and experience fighting the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) Achmad Ibrahim

Associated Press
Published: 1/24/2020 6:39:14 PM
Modified: 1/24/2020 6:39:04 PM

China expanded its lockdown against the deadly new virus to an unprecedented 36 million people and rushed to build a prefabricated, 1,000-bed hospital for victims Friday as the outbreak cast a pall over Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest, most festive holiday.

The number of confirmed cases around the world climbed sharply to more than 850, with at least 25 deaths, all of them in China.

Meanwhile, France announced two cases of the virus – the first in Europe. And the United States reported its second case, involving a Chicago woman in her 60s who was hospitalized after returning from China. U.S. stocks fell in midday trading, especially health care companies, banks, airlines and other tourism and travel businesses.

Transportation was shut down in Wuhan, the city of 11 million at the epicenter of the outbreak, and in at least 12 other cities in central China’s Hubei province, encompassing a population bigger than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

And authorities in Beijing and other cities canceled many public celebrations and other events marking Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday.

Hospitals in Wuhan grappled with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies. Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for examinations, and some complained that family members had been turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

Authorities in Wuhan and elsewhere put out calls for medicine, disinfection equipment, masks, goggles, gowns and other protective gear.

Wuhan authorities said they are rapidly constructing a new hospital to deal with the crisis, to be completed Feb. 3. It will be modeled on a SARS hospital that was built in Beijing in just six days during the SARS outbreak.

The seriousness of the crisis was still an open question.

It was not clear just how lethal the virus is, or even whether it is as dangerous as ordinary flu, which kills tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. alone.




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