China virus: How do you quarantine a city – and does it work?

How do you quarantine a city – and does it work?

With two days until the Chinese New Year, the railway station in Wuhan should be buzzing. Across the country, millions of people are heading home to see loved ones. But in China’s seventh biggest city – home of the coronavirus – most platforms are deserted.

The WHO has praised their efforts, and there are some precedents for what experts call “social distancing”.

In April 2009, Mexico City shut down bars, cinemas, theatres, football grounds, and even churches in an attempt to stop swine flu. Restaurants were only allowed to serve takeaway food.

“It did apparently slow the transmission of the virus in Mexico City, and helped authorities get a handle on the situation,” says Prof Kamradt-Scott. “Did it stop it completely? No.”

Wuhan is a huge place – the 42nd biggest city in the world, according to UN data – and cannot easily be turned into an isolation ward.

More than 20 major roads come into Wuhan, plus dozens of smaller ones. Even with public transport closed, sealing the city is very difficult.

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