A little over a month since the coronavirus outbreak was first detected in the Hubei province of China, the Chinese government has ordered four cities in the country on lockdown in an attempt to stop, or at least slow, the spread of the disease over Lunar New Year celebrations, which begin on January 24.
The four cities include Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, and the nearby cities of Huanggang, Ezhou, and Chiba. In total the four cities have a population of over 20 million people. To put that in perspective, that would be like the United States putting the entire state of New York or Florida on lockdown. Or to look at it another way, that would be the equivalent of the U.S. locking down its six most-populous cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia combined.
The fear Beijing has is that with an estimated three billion trips planned over Lunar New Year festivities, the infection rate of the coronavirus could skyrocket. Yet the disease isn’t only a Chinese problem anymore. It has already spread to the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Macau, and Hong Kong, reports the Guardian.
Right now, there are over 600 confirmed cases of the disease, though those estimates might not reflect the true extent of the contagion. As of now, 17 people who caught the disease are confirmed to have died. The fear is that the infection rate–and death rate–could rapidly increase if the coronavirus continues to spread and/or mutates into a deadlier strain.