Public transport and flight services in Wuhan, one of the most densely populated cities in China, have been shut down after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
China told the 11 million residents of Wuhan on Thursday that they would no longer be allowed to leave, as the authorities step up efforts to halt the spread of a new coronavirus that originated in the city in December and has now killed 17 people and infected 571.
“Without a special reason, city residents should not leave Wuhan,” the central city’s special command centre to combat the virus said, according to state media.
The move is meant to “effectively cut off the virus spread, resolutely curb the outbreak and guarantee the people’s health and safety,” the notice said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Stations and the airport were closed from 10am (02:00 GMT) with buses, the metro system, ferries and long-distance shuttle buses also suspended. All public gatherings were cancelled.
The decision came as hundreds of millions of people are travelling across China for the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Friday, and state television said the number of confirmed infections had risen to 571.
Most patients are in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, but cases have appeared elsewhere in China and in countries including Thailand, South Korea and the United States.