Officials have postponed the end of the lunar new year holidays as spread of virus continues and lockdowns expand
The head of the World Health Organization will hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing on Monday to discuss how to contain the coronavirus that has killed 80 people and left more than 400 in a critical condition.
In an effort to reduce chances of infection during what is China’s busiest travel season, officials announced the end of this week’s lunar new year holiday would be postponed until at least 2 February. Authorities have also widened sweeping restrictions on travel across the country.
On Monday, Chongqing municipality, which has a population of 30 million, said it had banned long-distance bus services. The municipality borders Hubei province, where the vast majority of deaths have been recorded. It follows similar announcements over the weekend by Beijing, Shanghai and the eastern province of Shandong.
The suspension of long-distance bus services, the cheapest way to travel, is likely to slow down the return of millions of migrant workers who have visited their families over the lunar new year.
By postponing the end of the holiday to Sunday from Friday, officials hoped to “effectively reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a cabinet statement said.
Many of China’s big retail chains have also said they will temporarily close their stores, while some online businesses and banks have advised employees returning from Hubei province to work from home.