Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks.
China raised the death toll from its coronavirus outbreak to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, as authorities made plans for millions of people returning to work after an extended Lunar New Year break.
Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks as Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and shut schools.
Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces and schools will remain closed and many white-collar employees will work from home.
The scale of the potential hit to an economy that has been the engine of global growth in recent years has taken a toll on financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens such as gold, bonds and the Japanese yen.
China’s ambassador to Britain described the newly identified virus as “the enemy of mankind” in a BBC interview on Sunday, but added it “is controllable, is preventable, is curable”.
“At this moment is very difficult to predict when we are going to have an inflection point,” Liu Xiaoming said. “We certainly hope it will come soon, but the isolation and quarantine measures have been very effective.”
China’s cabinet said it would coordinate with transport authorities to ensure the smooth return to work of employees in key industries such as food and medicines.