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OMS rules out declaring international alert

China expands quarantine for the coronavirus to four other cities and isolates 21 million people

The closure of cities to control the transmission of the new coronavirus is spread in China. After the abrupt quarantine imposed since Thursday to Wuhan, the city of 11 million inhabitants, the focus of the infection, the authorities have ordered the isolation of four others nearby. Huanggang, with 7.5 million inhabitants, will close its railway station starting this midnight. The relatively smaller Ezhou, of a population of one million residents, will do the same. Two other smaller towns, Chibi and Zhijiang, have also restricted the movements of their neighbors.

The World Health Organization has ruled out this afternoon to declare the international alert, although it has also stated that it could meet again for this reason in the coming days. WHO has warned: "The global community must be prepared."

In Huanggang, located about 70 kilometers from Wuhan, public transport will stop and trains will stop leaving their station until further notice. Public meeting places such as coffee shops or cinemas will also be closed, according to a statement from the local government. Residents have received orders not to leave the town unless special circumstances. In Ezhou, about 60 kilometers away, the train stations will stop working.

In other large Chinese cities, local governments have announced the cancellation of public celebrations of the lunar New Year, starting this Saturday, to avoid contagion. Beijing City Hall has announced the cancellation of large events: the popular temple fairs will not be held, which gather thousands of people in some of the capital's most frequented parks and temples with an offer of traditional shows and games. A measure that adds to Wuhan, the autonomous region of Macao and the coastal province of Zhejiang.

In that province, the city of Hangzhou, with 9.8 million inhabitants, has announced that these days it will suspend its shows and tours in larger boats on its West Lake, its main tourist attraction. Museums and other points where visitors tend to congregate will also be closed.

The most recent data on the coronavirus known as Wuhan 2019-nCoV put the cases in 18 dead and 634 infected, about a hundred more than the figures of the previous day. The new deceased has been notified by the authorities of Hebei Province and is the first to occur outside of Wuhan. The pathogen has already reached Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and the United States.

The 18 dead, according to official data released by the National Health Commission of China on Thursday, are mostly men. Almost all, over 70 years of age and already with pictures of other diseases. The youngest victim is a 48-year-old woman with a history of diabetes and cerebral infarction. All resided in the province of Hubei, where the quarantined cities are located.

As the concern for the virus grows, which expands coinciding with the lunar New Year travel season - the largest mobilization in the world, in which about 3 billion displacements are estimated - a study published by a team of five Scientists from various Chinese universities point out that snakes are probably the animal that transmitted the pathogen to humans.

The Chinese authorities had traced the origin of the infection in the market of Huanan, in the city of Wuhan, the seventh of the country and an important transport knot that has remained since Thursday isolated by quarantine. In this market, although its official name described it as a point of sale of seafood and fish, numerous species of wild animals were sold, from wolf cubs to bats. The National Health Commission admitted that the virus was transmitted from an animal to the human being, although it did not specify which species could be treated.

A first study published last Tuesday in the journal Science China Life Sciences, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, had analyzed the relationship between the new coronavirus and similar ones. Among his conclusions, he had found that the pathogen was closely related to a strain that infects bats. But he had also indicated the probability that the infection had occurred through an intermediate animal. However, the report of five Chinese scientists published by the Journal of Medical Virology suggests that this animal is probably a snake.

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