China ramped up measures to contain a virus that has killed 26 people and infected more than 800, suspending public transport in 10 cities, shutting temples over the Lunar New Year and even closing the Forbidden City and part of the Great Wall.
The week-long holiday to welcome in the Year of the Rat began on Friday, raising fears that the infection rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of people travel to their homes and abroad. The risks also persuaded Shanghai Disneyland theme park to close from Saturday until further notice.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus an emergency for China but stopped short of declaring the epidemic of international concern.
While most of the cases and all of the deaths have been in China, the virus has been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. It was highly likely Britain also had cases, a health official said.
In Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began last month, pharmacies were running out of supplies and hospitals were flooded with nervous resident seeking medical checks.
"There's so much news, so much data, every 10 minutes there's an update, it's frightening, especially for people like us in a severely hit area," said Lily Jin, 30, a resident of the city. "Even if you're not ill you'll frighten yourself into getting sick."
As of Thursday, there were 830 confirmed cases and 26 people had died, the National Health Commission said.
Most cases have been in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated in a market that traded illegally in wildlife. Preliminary research suggested it crossed to humans from snakes.
The city of 11 million people, and neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about 7 million, were in virtual lockdown. Rail stations were largely shut, with few trains stopping, flights suspended and checkpoints on main roads in and out.
About 10 people got off a high-speed train that pulled into Wuhan on Friday afternoon but nobody got on before it resumed its journey.
"I need to be with my family," said one passenger, dragging two large cases out of the station. He declined to give his name.
Wuhan was rushing to build a 1,000-bed hospital for the infected by Monday, the official Changjiang Daily reported.
Prefabricated buildings were going up around a holiday complex originally intended for workers, set in gardens by a lake on the outskirts of the city.
Television footage showed about 30 mechanical diggers clawing at brown earth preparing the site.
Wuhan hospitals called for donations of protective equipment such as masks and suits, as supplies ran low.
Several airlines have suspended flights to Wuhan while airports worldwide have stepped up the screening of passengers from China.
China building 1,000-bed hospital over the weekend
The Chinese city of Wuhan is rapidly building a new 1,000-bed hospital to treat victims of a new coronavirus, mobilizing machinery to get it ready by early next week, state media said.
The new hospital is being built around a holiday complex originally intended for local workers, set in gardens by a lake on the outskirts of the city, the official Changjiang Daily reported on Friday. Prefabricated buildings, which will have 1,000 beds, will be put up, it said.
Building machinery, including 35 diggers and 10 bulldozers, arrived at the site on Thursday night, with the aim to get the new facility ready by Monday, the paper added.
"The construction of this project is to solve the shortage of existing medical resources," the report said. "Because it will be prefabricated buildings, it will not only be built fast but it also won't cost much."
China State Construction Engineering, one of the companies building the hospital, said on Friday it was "doing all it can and would overcome difficulties" to play its part, adding it now had more than 100 workers on the site.
Two Chinese citizens in Vietnam confirmed to have coronavirus
Two Chinese citizens in Vietnam have tested positive for coronavirus, Vietnam's health ministry said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian country suspended flights to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the new virus was first identified.
China has stepped up measures to contain a virus that has killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspended in 10 cities, the shutting of temples and the rapid construction of a hospital to treat the infected.
"The ministry of health will continue to monitor for suspected symptoms at airports in Nha Trang and Danang where, many Chinese visitors arrive," deputy health minister Nguyen Truong Son said in a ministry statement.
Movie to premiere online as virus closes cinemas
Chinese movie fans can catch the premier of much-anticipated new comedy this holiday weekend under a 630 million yuan ($91.25 million) deal to issue the film over the internet, as fears of a deadly new virus keep audiences away from cinemas.
The Hong Kong-listed Huanxi Media Group announced on Friday an agreement with Beijing Bytedance Network to show its new movie "Lost in Russia" on Bytedance's online platforms.
Bytedance, which owns the popular TikTok video-sharing app and the news app Jinri Toutiao, said given the efforts to reduce the risks of big gatherings, it had secured the deal to let fans watch "Lost in Russia" for free on its apps.
"The film will keep the appointment to meet everyone on Jan. 25, but the meeting point has changed to your cellphone and television, instead of the cinema," the company said in a statement posted on Jinri Toutiao.
Huanxi Media's share price rose as much as 30% after the agreement was announced.
Neither ByteDance nor Huanxi responded to requests for comment on their agreement.
China has stepped efforts to contain the coronavirus, which has killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspended in 10 cities and public gatherings discouraged across the country.
The week-long Lunar New Year holiday usually sees audiences flock to cinemas with distributors taking advantage of the crowds to launch films but the premieres of at least seven movies, including "Lost in Russia", postponed.
China emergency, not global
The WHO said on Thursday it was a "bit too early" to designate the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, which would require countries to step up their response.
"Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The previously unknown virus, which has no cure and can spread through respiratory transmission, has created alarm because there are a number of unknowns. It is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.
Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. Most of the fatalities have been elderly, many with pre-existing conditions, the WHO said.
Three research teams are to start work on vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. The plan is to have at least one in clinical trials by June.
Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the one that caused the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which also began in China and killed nearly 800 people, or the one that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.
Great wall, Forbidden city to close
Chinese authorities have advised people to avoid crowds and 10 cities in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, have suspended some transport, the Hubei Daily reported.
Some sections of the Great Wall near Beijing will be closed from Saturday, state media said.
Famous temples have also closed, including Beijing's Lama Temple where people make offerings for the new year, have also been closed as has the Forbidden City, the capital's most famous tourist attraction.
Shanghai Disneyland will close from Saturday. The theme park has a 100,000 daily capacity and sold out during last year's Lunar New Year holiday.
The virus is expected to dent China's growth after months of economic worries over trade tensions with the United States, unnerving foreign companies doing business there.
A National Australia Bank research team estimated China's gross domestic product growth for the first quarter could be hit by about 1 percentage point.
Shares in luxury goods firms have suffered from the anticipated drop in demand from China, and on Friday French spirits group Remy Cointreau said it was "clearly concerned" about the potential impact.