China: Imposes tougher lockdown measures

China is introducing more restrictive measures to try to control an outbreak of coronavirus that has killed more than 560 people and infected 28,000.

In some areas group dining is banned, there are limits on how often people can go outside, with lifts turned off in some buildings.

There is also a shortage of equipment, with some cities fighting over masks.

Human Rights Watch has criticised the lockdowns, saying China was “treating public health with a sledgehammer”.

The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.

What are Chinese authorities doing?

Beijing has banned group dining for events such as birthdays and weddings while cities such as Hangzhou and Nanchang are limiting how many family members can leave home each day.

Chinese policemen wearing masks

GettyCoronavirus in China

  • 564dead
  • 1,153cured
  • 28,018confirmed cases
  • 24,702suspected cases
  • 186,354 under medical watch

Source: National Health Commission China

Hubei province, the worst hit by the virus, has switched off lifts in high-rise buildings to discourage residents from going outside.

Its capital, Wuhan, has a lack of beds and equipment, one senior city official said. Despite the rapid construction of two hospitals, the volume of patients is causing severe strain.

Reports on social media say the Wuhan government is to carry out door-to-door temperature checks on residents.

Media captionEvacuating from China to a remote Australian island for quarantine

The city of Dali in Yunnan province was accused of requisitioning a shipment of masks bound for Chongqing. Dali’s government said it could not do anything as the boxes had already been distributed.

The cities of Qingdao and Shenyang also reportedly squabbled over a medical shipment.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has seen panic buying of goods, including toilet rolls, and there have been huge queues for masks.

In other developments:

  • A Vietnamese restaurant in the Czech capital Prague sparked anger by posting a sign saying that Chinese customers would be temporarily banned over “public health” concerns, AFP reports
  • The Kremlin is checking the body temperature of people attending events involving President Vladimir Putin
  • The chief executive officer of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers, Toshiro Muto, said the Games would “go ahead as planned” with the “infection still limited”
  • Taiwan has banned mainland Chinese citizens from entering. Other nationals who have recently travelled to China, Hong Kong and Macau will be quarantined for two weeks

What has Human Rights Watch said?

Executive director Kenneth Roth said China had suppressed reports in the early days of the outbreak and clamped down on criticism of its handling of the crisis.

“There’s no place for secrecy in fighting an epidemic,” he said.

Although he praised Beijing for quickly sharing the DNA sequence of the virus, he attacked the lockdowns policy.

“Quarantines of this sort typically don’t work. Quarantines, the kind that public health officials advocate, are much more targeted. They’re aimed at people who have been identified as having the virus,” he said.

Mr Roth said there were “huge gaps” in getting people fed, housed and treated.

Chinese officials have strongly defended their approach.

The latest figure to speak out was the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, who said the government was doing everything it could to control, prevent and cure the coronavirus.

But he also said the UK had overreacted by advising an estimated 30,000 British nationals in China to leave and that there had been discrimination against Chinese nationals in the UK.

What’s the latest on infections?

Although the virus has spread overseas, with confirmed infection in some 25 nations, there have so far been only two deaths outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency, saying if funds are not allocated now to tackle the outbreak, nations would pay for it later.

Although the official figures in China are of 28,000 infections, some scientists have estimated that the actual rate could be 10 times higher, with the majority of infected people only presenting mild symptoms, not receiving treatment, yet passing on the potentially deadly disease.

The UK on Thursday confirmed a third case of the virus.

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