China extends Lunar New Year holiday in bid to fight coronavirus

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Chinese officials on Monday announced they would extend the Lunar New Year holiday in hopes of keeping citizens home and reducing the risk of the spread of the coronavirus that has killed at least 81 people.

The Chinese government said in a statement that it will push back the end of the holiday from Sunday to Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” The Associated Press reported. Officials hope the extension will prevent the potential spread of the disease risked by tens of millions of travelers returning to work by plane, train or bus. Schools are slated to remain closed indefinitely.

Individual cities across China have also taken action to reduce the spread of the virus, with Shanghai extending the holiday to Feb. 9 and ordering the closure of all religious events and sports stadiums.

Premier Li Keqiang visited the city of Wuhan, believed to the origin point of the outbreak through a wildlife market, on Monday to “guide epidemic work,” according to the Cabinet, later visiting a supermarket and mingling with shoppers.

“To get the epidemic under control in Wuhan and the good health of people in Wuhan will be good news for the whole country,” Li told the crowd, the AP reports. “We wish the people of Wuhan a safe, healthy and long life. Let’s go, Wuhan!”

The U.S. consulate in Wuhan said it plans to evacuate diplomats and other American citizens on Tuesday, while the French plans to fly its citizens out of the area and quarantine them in France, while the France-based automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen is moving foreign employees of its Wuhan factory and their families to another city, where they will be quarantined.

U.S. officials confirmed a fourth case of the virus on Sunday, with a patient being diagnosed with it in Los Angeles County.

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