Friday 24 January 2020 7:29 am

Coronavirus: China widens travel lockdown as death toll rises

Fourteen people in the UK have been tested for a new strain of the coronavirus, with five testing negative as the others await results, Public Health England said today.

An incident team has made a base in Scotland where five people were tested amid 830 confirmed cases of the virus across the world.

The death toll has risen to 26, all in China. The country has widened a lockdown in its Hubei province, where the outbreak started. And at least 10 Chinese cities within the province are on lock down, representing 60m people.

A patient with coronavirus died in a neighbouring province, Hebei, yesterday, marking the first death outside the central province.

The outbreak has claimed lives and gathered pace ahead of the Chinese New Year, when millions of people travel home.

It has led Beijing to cancel an international carnival in Hong Kong marking the Lunar New Year as well as a football tournament in its capital. All Macau Chinese New Year celebrations have also been cancelled and the Forbidden City is now under shutdown.

So far it has spread to Japan, Thailand and the US. The city of Wuhan is now building a 1,000-bed hospital to deal with increasing numbers of infected patients, using prefabricated buildings to be ready as quickly as possible.

However, Public Health England said the risk to the UK remains low. But that is an upgrade from ‘very low’, after Chinese authorities confirmed it could spread from person to person.

Chinese equity indices fell again last night amid fear over the threat of contagion, though the main markets are closed due to the Lunar New Year celebrations.

“The CSI 300 has now, along with the Hang Seng, given up its gains for the year,” Societes Generale financial analyst Kit Juckes said.

“Industrial metals prices are under some pressure to as it’s now inevitable that there will be a measurable cost to the Chinese economy.”

That followed falls in European and US stocks yesterday down to the coronavirus’ impact.

“The losses that were registered in Europe weren’t massive, but traders have long memories and the panic that was sparked on the back of the SARS crisis in the early 2000s still lingers,” CMC market analyst David Madden said.

“Should the health crisis get worse, the negative sentiment is likely to grow. Equity markets were very strong in advance of the situation so a pullback could be on the cards.”

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