Dubai - China coronavirus outbreak: Dubai to screen passengers

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - (Dubai Airports via Twitter)

China has put on lockdown two cities at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600.

Dubai will screen passengers arriving on direct flights from China, the emirate's airport operator said on Thursday, as the coronavirus outbreak in China that has killed 17 spreads.

Passengers arriving at Dubai International will be thermally screened, Dubai Airports said.

China put on lockdown on Thursday two cities at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world scramble to prevent a global pandemic.

Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Most transport in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended on Thursday morning and people were told not to leave. Hours later, state media in neighbouring Huanggang, a city of some 6 million people, said it was imposing a similar lockdown.

Chinese authorities gave no new details on the numbers of virus infections but it has been reported in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and several other countries including the United States, stoking fears it is already spreading worldwide.

State media broadcast images of one of Wuhan's transport hubs, the Hankou rail station, nearly deserted, with gates blocked or barred. The government is urging citizens not to leave the city.

State media reported highway toll booths around Wuhan were closing down, which would effectively cut off road exits. Guards were patrolling major highways, one resident told Reuters.

As the city slipped into isolation, residents thronged into hospitals for checks and scrambled for supplies, clearing out supermarket shelves and queuing for petrol.

Authorities in Huanggang ordered indoor entertainment venues including cinemas and internet cafes to close and were asking citizens not to leave other than under special circumstances, state media said.

Authorities had confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths by the end of Wednesday, China's National Health Commission said. Earlier, it said another 393 suspected cases had been reported.

Of eight known cases worldwide, Thailand has confirmed four, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States have reported one each.

In a report on Wednesday, Imperial College London said it estimated a total of 4,000 cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan alone as of Jan. 18, an infection rate based on the number of cases reported in China and elsewhere.

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