China extends Lunar New Year holiday in effort to contain coronavirus

Beijing (AP): China on Monday expanded sweeping efforts to contain a viral disease by extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll rose to 81.

Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to visitors from the province at the centre of the outbreak following a warning the virus’s ability to spread was growing. Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide, adding to the rising economic cost.

Increasingly drastic anti-disease efforts began with the Jan. 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month. That lockdown has expanded to a total of 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.

The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, will be pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a cabinet statement said.

The government of Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people and a global business centre, extended the holiday by an additional week within the city to Feb. 9. It ordered sports stadiums and religious events closed.

Tens of millions of people had been due to crowd into planes, trains and buses to return to work after visiting their hometowns or tourist sites for the holiday. Schools will postpone reopening until further notice, the cabinet said.

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