BEIJING: China said on Thursday (Jan 23) that the number of people infected by a new coronavirus has hit 571, as authorities took a drastic step to contain the outbreak by suspending all flights and trains out of Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

At least 17 people have died from the SARS-like virus, which has also spread to other major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, as well as provinces in northeastern, central, and southern China.

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UPDATE: This number has just gone up again to 571 cases, according to the National Health Commission

— Olivia Siong (@OliviaSiongCNA) January 23, 2020

The first case of the new virus was confirmed on Dec 31 and it has since been detected in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

The virus, which causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold or flu, has been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, the largest city in central China with a population of about 11 million. That market has since been shut down.

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The Chinese government has classified the outbreak in the same category as the SARS epidemic, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the illness and the potential to implement quarantine measures.

READ: China halts flights and trains out of Wuhan as WHO extends talks

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the virus can be passed between people, at least those in close contact.

It delayed a decision on Wednesday on whether to declare a global health emergency – a rare instrument used only for the worst outbreaks, saying it needed "more information".

The emergency committee will meet again from 1100GMT (7pm local time) on Thursday, after its chair, Didier Houssin, said the experts were split over decRead More – Source

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