China cancels its Lunar New Year celebrations in desperate bid to contain killer coronavirus 11 min read

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China has gone into lockdown today on the eve of the Lunar New Year as authorities and businesses scramble to shut tourist attractions and public transport systems in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has killed at least 26 people.

Part of the Great Wall of China in Beijing and Disneyland in Shanghai have been closed as authorities desperately try to stop people spreading the Wuhan coronavirus amid fears as many as 10,000 are already infected with the killer virus.

Fourteen cities, home to around 40million people, are reported to have gone into some form of lockdown in the past two days, with public transport halted and roads closed during the traditional holiday period.

China on lockdown: Authorities and businesses are scrambling to shut tourist attractions and public transport systems across the country in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly new virus

China on lockdown: Authorities and businesses are scrambling to shut tourist attractions and public transport systems across the country in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly new virus

Shanghai's Disneyland will close to visitors tomorrow for 'the prevention and control of the disease outbreak'. Visitors wearing masks walk past the resort today which has taken the extraordinary step of closing during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday

Shanghai’s Disneyland will close to visitors tomorrow for ‘the prevention and control of the disease outbreak’. Visitors wearing masks walk past the resort today which has taken the extraordinary step of closing during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday

The Forbidden City (pictured today) is also closed and part of the Great Wall of China has been shut to stop the spread of the coronavirus which has killed 26 and infected 830 in China

The Forbidden City (pictured today) is also closed and part of the Great Wall of China has been shut to stop the spread of the coronavirus which has killed 26 and infected 830 in China

The 2020 Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, will start from tomorrow and ring in the year of the rat, the first of the 12 zodiac signs in the Chinese calender. 

But as the country’s citizens are poised to celebrate their most important holiday of the year, temples have locked their doors, major tourist destinations have announced emergency closures and restaurant reservations are being cancelled. 

Shanghai Disney Resort posted on its website: ‘In response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests and cast, Shanghai Disney Resort is temporarily closing Shanghai Disneyland, Disneytown.

‘We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and… announce the reopening date upon confirmation.’

People wear masks in the Jingshan Park in Beijing today, January 24. New Year celebrations planned in the park will no longer go ahead as the country is ravaged by the deadly virus

People wear masks in the Jingshan Park in Beijing today, January 24. New Year celebrations planned in the park will no longer go ahead as the country is ravaged by the deadly virus

A woman is pictured wearing a mask in front of the now-closed Forbidden City in Beijing. The building houses the capital's Palace Museum but has been shut to visitors to curb the ourbreak

A woman is pictured wearing a mask in front of the now-closed Forbidden City in Beijing. The building houses the capital’s Palace Museum but has been shut to visitors to curb the ourbreak

Workers in protective clothing scan the temperatures of patients arriving at Xianning North railway station, close to Wuhan, today on the eve of the Chinese New Year celebrations

Workers in protective clothing scan the temperatures of patients arriving at Xianning North railway station, close to Wuhan, today on the eve of the Chinese New Year celebrations

A section of the Great Wall known as the Badaling section – one of the most visited parts – has been closed to tourists, Al Jazeera reports.

The following measures have been taken to control the disease’s spread in and around China: 

  • Beijing’s Forbidden Palace, which hosts the Palace Museum, will be closed to visitors from tomorrow, Saturday
  • The Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, has been closed
  • A four-day carnival planned in Hong Kong, from January 25 to 28, has been cancelled by the state tourism board
  • Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year World Cup football tournament has been called off
  • All public Lunar New Year events in Macau, home to more than half-a-million people, have been cancelled 
A girl, wearing a face mask, holds her mother and a lantern as they leave Beijing West Railway Station to go home for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Millions still traveled this year, though authorities this week cut off flights, trains and other transport from Wuhan

A girl, wearing a face mask, holds her mother and a lantern as they leave Beijing West Railway Station to go home for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Millions still traveled this year, though authorities this week cut off flights, trains and other transport from Wuhan

The Lunar New Year has evolved over more than 3,000 years to become the most important of China’s festivals.

Workers in cities or factory towns return to their hometowns to visit their parents, and others take vacations, in what has been described as the largest annual migration of people in the world. 

Millions still traveled this year, though authorities this week cut off flights, trains and other transport from Wuhan, after travelers from the city where the viral illness broke out started carrying it to other parts of China and abroad.

Government offices and most companies shut down for a week starting today. 

The day before the New Year is for family dinners, traditionally at home, and likely more so this year. 

The Beijing News newspaper reported that 15 per cent of dinner reservations had been cancelled in the Chinese capital, and that some were buying dishes at restaurants to eat at home.

The outbreak happens as the country celebrates the Chinese New Year, which starts tomorrow

The outbreak happens as the country celebrates the Chinese New Year, which starts tomorrow

The deadly coronavirus ravaging Asia is far more contagious than previously thought and someone who is infected can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze

The deadly coronavirus ravaging Asia is far more contagious than previously thought and someone who is infected can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze

Instead of family reunions or sightseeing trips, many of the country’s 1.4-billion people are hunkering down as the nation scrambles to prevent the virus from spreading further.

‘Have bought food and snacks. Will not visit friends, relatives and not receive guests during the Spring Festival. Just stay at home to enjoy a quiet New Year,’ said a typical post on China’s Weibo social media service.

As celebrated in China and in many other places, the Lunar New Year is largely a secular holiday, yet it includes rituals and traditions that derive from Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, as well as from ancient myths and folk religions.

One of the popular versions of its origin involves an elderly wise man who used firecrackers and red paper to scare away a menacing mythical beast. Red lanterns and gifts of money in red envelopes are ubiquitous during the holiday, as are dragon dances, another legendary way to chase off evil spirits.

Fourteen cities in China are now on lockdown as officials battle to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has killed 26, left hundreds seriously ill and potentially infected thousands. Pictured, passengers arrive from the city of Wuhan - where the virus originated - arrive at Narita Airport in Chiba, Japan, today. One case has been confirmed in Japan

Fourteen cities in China are now on lockdown as officials battle to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has killed 26, left hundreds seriously ill and potentially infected thousands. Pictured, passengers arrive from the city of Wuhan – where the virus originated – arrive at Narita Airport in Chiba, Japan, today. One case has been confirmed in Japan

Dr Guan Yi (pictured), director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong, claimed that the situation in Wuhan was already 'uncontrollable'

Dr Guan Yi (pictured), director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong, claimed that the situation in Wuhan was already ‘uncontrollable’

The holiday prompts some to make a rare visit to a temple, comparable to the way some Christians go to church only at Christmas and Easter.

Red lanterns festoon streets and buildings in Beijing, but the Lama Temple and others have been closed. The Ci’en Temple in Zhejiang province, where at least five cases of the new virus have been confirmed, said on its website that all religious activities and events during the Spring Festival have been canceled.

Beijing has also canceled temple fairs, which typically run for several days starting on New Years Day and draw thousands of people who jostle shoulder-to-shoulder between food and souvenir stands.

Authorities are discouraging any large gatherings of people, closing the Forbidden City, a popular tourist destination in Beijing that was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Shanghai Disneyland said it would monitor the situation and consult with government officials to determine when to reopen.

A staff member checks a passenger's body temperature at Wangjiadun metro station in Wuhan

A staff member checks a passenger’s body temperature at Wangjiadun metro station in Wuhan

Passengers at Rome's Fiumicino Airport Authority are scanned by thermal imaging for body temperature as they go through health measures and procedures against deadly virus

Passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport Authority are scanned by thermal imaging for body temperature as they go through health measures and procedures against deadly virus

The films are not an option either. Lunar New Year is usually one of the biggest box office periods, generating more than $800million (£610million) in ticket sales last year, according to the China Film Administration.

But this year, studios postponed the premieres of seven major films and many theaters have closed.

‘At the moment, every medical worker fighting on the front lines is our “vanguard,” read a notice from one studio, announcing it would push back the debut of ‘Vanguard,’ a thriller starring Jackie Chan. ‘We hope they return triumphantly!’

All movie theaters in Guangdong, a southern province with more than 110 million people, were ordered closed for the Spring Festival, while many theaters in Beijing shut down after the city’s culture and tourism bureau ordered mass events to be canceled.

‘Most every activity involving crowds of people have stopped’ said a worker answering the phone at Chaoyang Theater, adding they were closed until Feburary 1.

The outbreak is believed to have started last month among people connected to a seafood market. Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (above) is the biggest of its kind in Wuhan

The outbreak is believed to have started last month among people connected to a seafood market. Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (above) is the biggest of its kind in Wuhan

Medical staff at Huazhong University of Science and Technology today attended a ceremony to form a 'assault team' in the fight against the coronavirus

Medical staff at Huazhong University of Science and Technology today attended a ceremony to form a ‘assault team’ in the fight against the coronavirus

Residents in Wuhan are pictured wearing masks to buy vegetables in the market this morning

Residents in Wuhan are pictured wearing masks to buy vegetables in the market yesterday

The deadly coronavirus ravaging Asia is far more contagious than previously thought and someone who is infected can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze.

It has so far killed 26 people and infected more than 830 in at least 10 countries and regions within three weeks.

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But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be over 10,000 as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.

A report written by researchers from England, Scotland and Florida, has predicted that a staggering 350,000 people may be infected just in Wuhan – the city where the outbreak started – by the beginning of February. 

Countries including the US, Malaysia and Singapore have introduced rigorous checks, with all passengers coming in from Wuhan are having their temperature taken, regardless of whether they have any symptoms.

International flights out of Wuhan have all been cancelled because of the virus’s spread, which has seen cases pop up in 10 countries and regions, most of which are in East Asia.

In the US, where one case has been confirmed, authorities in Washington state are monitoring at least 16 people who they say had close contact with a patient from near Seattle.

Suspected cases have appeared in Los Angeles and Brazos County, Texas, but neither have been confirmed. 

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can it kill?

Yes. Twenty-six people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MAILONLINE’S FULL Q&A ON THE CORONAVIRUS