The new coronavirus sweeping through China has claimed its first victim outside Hubei province, with a fatality in Hebei province near Beijing, according to authorities on Thursday.
The latest death brings the confirmed toll to 18, with the other 17 occurring in Hubei, the epicentre of the contagion. Hubei’s authorities have responded to the crisis by imposing travel bans on eight of its cities, including the province’s capital of Wuhan, local authorities said.
The health commission in Hebei said in a statement that the victim, aged 80, died on Wednesday and that the cause was not confirmed until Thursday.
Before the diagnosis, the man, a resident of Hebei, had been visiting relatives in Wuhan for more than two months, according to Hebei Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece in the province.
Hebei Daily said that 76 people who had been in close contact with the victim have been quarantined and that none had been found to be feverish.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have imposed travel bans on more cities in Hubei province and announced the allocation of funds to fight the spread of illness that has infected at least 647 people.
Eight cities in Hubei – Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan – are now subject to travel bans, according to notices released by local governments.
Ride-sharing in Wuhan is also being suspended. According to a statement posted by Didi, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, the company’s services will be halted at noon on Friday at the request of Wuhan outbreak command authority.
Wuhan is a hub for several major high-speed railway lines that link it to China’s major cities; Beijing is four hours directly north by train, while it takes 4½ hours to reach Hong Kong, and Shanghai is almost six hours away.
The start of the Lunar New Year this week has increased the risk of transmission throughout the country and abroad.