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  • People wear face masks as they travel in a high-speed train near Pingxiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, January 29, 2020.

    People wear face masks as they travel in a high-speed train near Pingxiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, January 29, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 January 2020

Thousands of people have been infected with the Coronavirus since early January, prompting China to take extreme measures to halt its spread. 

Japan and the United States have begun evacuating their citizens from China amid the spread of the Cononavirus in several parts of the Asian nation. At the same time, British Airways has suspended their flights to mainland China as deaths from the new virus leapt to 132 and a government economist predicted a huge hit to the economy.

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The Chinese authorities have pledged to slay the 'devil' Coronavirus and it appears to have won over the World Health Organization, despite the confirmation of another 1,459 cases. At least 5,974 cases of the Coronavirus have been reported since the start of the new year

Most of the cases in China have been reported in the central province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan, where the virus emerged last month in a live wild animal market. The situation remained “grim and complex”, Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged.

In many Chinese cities, streets were largely deserted with the few who ventured out wearing masks. Starbucks stores in Beijing required people to have temperatures taken and posted notices saying it was a state requirement to wear masks inside.

“It’s my first time here in Asia, I feel very unlucky,” said Brazilian tourist Amanda Lee, 23, reluctantly cutting short a trip. “I couldn’t even see the places I wanted, like the Great Wall.”

There was relief, however, among those evacuated from Hubei province, home to about 60 million people and under virtual lockdown. “I was extremely worried that I was stuck there,” said Takeo Aoyama, who arrived in Tokyo on a chartered plane carrying 206 Japanese out of Wuhan, with more flights planned.

Two of the Japanese evacuated had symptoms of pneumonia but coronavirus had not been confirmed, medics said.

The virus is weighing heavily on the world’s second-biggest economy. Companies are curbing travel to China, and airlines are cutting flights, with British Airways one of the biggest names in aviation to do so.

The gambling hub of Macau was virtually a ghost town, while malls and shopping centers in Asian capitals were bare.

A Chinese government economist said growth may slow to 5% or even lower in the first quarter of 2020 as the crisis hits more sectors, which could impel policymakers to unveil more stimulus measures.

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