French health authorities confirm first cases of new coronavirus in Europe

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The newly-identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how risky it is and how easily it spreads between people. All 41 deaths have been in China, including 39 in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and one each in Hebei and Heilongjiang provinces.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, China's President Xi Jinping stressed the urgency of controlling the outbreak - which includes hundreds more confirmed cases since Friday - and urged state authorities to prioritize containment efforts. These viruses are zoonoses, which means they can infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. Many people recover within a few days.

It also began deploying military medics to step up the treatment facilities in Wuhan and 12 other cities in Hubei province which are under total lock-down with suspension of all public transport. Authorities reportedly started building the 1,000 bed hospital on Friday.

In 2003, a similar building was quickly erected during a SARS outbreak.

As many as 172 people in Kerala are under home surveillance and the other seven are under observation at various hospitals across the state, news agency PTI reported quoting a senior health official. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as Sars and Mers, although so far the new virus does not appear to be almost as deadly or contagious.

"We originally planned to go back to my wife's hometown and bought train tickets to depart this afternoon", said Li Mengbin, who was on a stroll by the moat of the closed Forbidden City.

On the eastern outskirts of Wuhan, police manning a roadblock turned away a handful of vehicles trying to exit the city.

"Nobody can leave", an officer told AFP.

"People who arrive in Australia from an worldwide flight with these symptoms should alert their airline, or a biosecurity officer if they have disembarked".

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Lam also said she had sought the assistance from China's State Council to ensure mask supplies were adequate.

The agency is now not advising people to wear face masks.

Wuhan's usually bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were unnervingly quiet on Day Two of its lockdown, and masks were mandatory in public. The Chinese New Year celebrations at the end of January will increase travel volume to/from China and within China, hence increasing the likelihood of arrival of cases in the EU.

Beijing so far has reported 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, official media reported.

Underscoring fears that the virus could spread further, Beijing will suspend long-distance bus service entering and leaving the capital of 20 million people from Sunday due to "requirements of epidemic prevention and control", the official People's Daily newspaper reported.

The order was issued in a circular by a multi-department task-force headed by the National Health Commission to fight the virus outbreak.

China's biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year, unfolded Saturday in the shadow of the worrying new virus.

Xinhua said the Standing Committee agreed to set up a working group that would visit Hubei.

Schools and universities, which are now on a Lunar New Year break, would remain closed until February 17, Ms. Lam said.

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