China curbs travel abroad as it expands drive against virus

WUHAN, China — China on Tuesday urged its citizens to postpone travel abroad as it expanded unprecedented efforts to contain a viral outbreak that has killed 106 people and left other governments racing to pull their nationals from the contagion’s epicenter.

The epidemic, which experts believe emanated from a wild animal market in the city of Wuhan last month, has spread around China and to more than a dozen other countries despite the extraordinary travel curbs.

Authorities initially sealed off Wuhan and other cities in central Hubei province late last week, trapping more than 50 million people, in a bid to contain the virus as the high-travel Lunar New Year holiday unfolded.

China then halted international and domestic group tours. It also imposed a wide range of travel restrictions inside China, including on long-distance buses.

But, with the death toll climbing and more fatalities reported in Chinese cities far away from Wuhan, authorities on Tuesday called for all overseas travel to be postponed.

This was “to protect the health and safety of Chinese and foreign people,” the National Immigration Administration said.

The National Health Commission on Tuesday announced 26 new deaths — mostly elderly — bringing the nationwide total to 106.

Deaths have been confirmed in Beijing and Shanghai.

The commission also said Tuesday confirmed infections nearly doubled from the previous day to 4,515.

Another 7,000 more cases are suspected and awaiting confirmation.

With a ban on car travel to try and stop people infecting others, the streets of Wuhan are mostly deserted although its hospitals are overwhelmed.

To minimize close contact between people, authorities have suspended more than 2,000 train services as well as shut down many bus services.

China has also extended the Lunar New Year holiday into next week to keep people at home, indefinitely postponing classes at schools and universities.

Yet the virus has showed little sign of slowing down.

Germany, Canada and Sri Lanka announced their first infections on Monday, bringing the total number of countries with confirmed cases to 15.

With global concern mounting, governments around the world have started to try and quickly build defenses.

With Leo Ramirez