Photo/ AFP)

Beijing: China on Thursday locked down five cities, including Wuhan, suspending all public transport, in an unprecedented move to contain the coronavirus that has infected over 630 people and left 17 others dead. Among other steps, planes and trains have been banned from leaving.

The respiratory virus has claimed 17 lives since emerging from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, infected hundreds of other people nationwide and been detected as far away as the United States.

Several Indians live in Wuhan, a major port city in central Hubei province with a population of 11 million people. Authorities in have told residents not to leave the town without a special reason and the Indian Embassy here has set up hotlines for their assistance.

Trains and planes out of Wuhan were indefinitely suspended, toll ways on roads out of the city were closed, leading to fear and panic among those who were trapped.

Authorities in neighbouring Huanggang -- a city of 7.5 million -- too have suspended public transport and train services. All cinemas, internet cafes and the central market have been told to down shutters.

‘‘We are feeling as though it is the end of the world," said one Wuhan resident on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform, voicing concerns about shortages of food and disinfectant.

Another described being on the "verge of tears" when the de facto quarantine was announced.

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Free Press Journal