The Chinese government restricted travel in two additional cities after announcing a quarantine for the city of Wuhan — the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus — and suspended public transportation in the locations as of Thursday evening. The move comes as Beijing also announced the cancelation of major events indefinitely, including celebrations for the Lunar New Year.
Authorities in Huanggang, in Hubei Province, which is around 50 miles southeast of Wuhan, suspended bus and train service and temporarily closed enclosed venues like movie theatres and internet cafes, the city’s public television said.
Rail service in Ezhou, a smaller city south of Huanggang, is also being stopped.
In all, an estimated 18 million people will be impacted by the restrictions in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which so far as sickened over 500 people and been linked to at least 17 deaths.
“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, a World Health Organization representative told The Associated Press, of Wuhan’s quarantine. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it won’t work.”
The travel restrictions come just before the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel through China for the celebrations.
Initially, Chinese health authorities had traced the infections to a food market in Wuhan and for weeks maintained that the illness count remained at 41 with a minimal death toll. Since then, dozens who did not visit the market have been sickened, including medical workers who were treating patients, and officials have confirmed that the virus is transmissible between humans.
As the cases spiked, questions over when the country’s health officials found out about the virus and what they knew began to surface. Cases in at least five other countries, including the U.S., have since been reported, prompting governments to begin taking their own action.
President Trump said in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday that the U.S. has a plan to contain the virus after the first case was reported in a Seattle man this week.
“It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine,” Trump said in an interview.
The Seattle man, who has been identified as a Snohomish County resident who is in his 30s and lives alone, self-reported his symptoms after arriving back in the U.S. from Wuhan. He said he had no symptoms while in-flight or at the airport, but by Jan.19 had developed a fever and a cough, according to The Seattle Times.
He is said to be in satisfactory condition and the plan was to monitor him for at least 48 hours in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, according to the news outlet.
Major airports in New York, Chicago and California have started screening passengers returning from areas affected by the outbreak.
On Wednesday, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that a coronavirus vaccine was in the “very early stages” of development.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein and Madeline Farber contributed to this report.