Jan 23, 2020

By Jane Brown

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China has decided to lock down three cities which are home to more than 18-million people in an unprecedented effort to try to contain a deadly new viral illness that has infected more than 500 people to date in an effort to halt the spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in Wuhan were eerily quiet Thursday.

(Composite images showing Chinese soldiers enforcing the blockade of a major railway station in Wuhan, China, a departure board showing shut-down services, and passengers in face masks on one of the last trains into Wuhan. The Paper/Twitter/Getty Images/Business Insider)

Barriers blocked the entrance to the city’s train station, and the airport, ferries, subways and buses were also halted.

Similar measures were take effect from Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou.

The virus that emerged in Wuhan in December has led to 17 deaths.

Members of the World Health Organization’s expert committee meet again Thursday after gathering more information, to decide whether to declare a global emergency.

There have been no cases reported in Canada, but Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says all precautions are in place.

Elliott says the risk to Ontarians remains low and the province will monitor the situation and respond accordingly.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, says the virus comes from the same family that can lead to the common cold, and caused the outbreak of SARS about 17 years ago that killed at least nearly 800 people worldwide, including 44 in Canada.

Some 3500 people die of the flu in Canada every year.

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