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Pictures Report

RTS30RR8
Coronavirus to extreme weather: What happens in a city lockdown?
Wuhan, a Chinese city of about 11 million, has been under virtual lockdown for more than a week as the government tries to contain the outbreak of the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has killed more than 400 people and infected thousands more.

After announcing the lockdown on Jan. 23 - two days before China started its Lunar New Year holiday - authorities cut most transport links to Wuhan and told people not to leave the central city in a bid to quarantine the respiratory virus.

Coronavirus, which experts think originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally trading wildlife, has infected more than 20,000 people across China since the illness was first detected in late December.

With more than 170 confirmed cases in about 24 other countries and regions - including Australia, Britain and the United States - the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Here is how authorities go about closing a city, and what it means for the people who live there.
FLU/
RTXEUMD
May 07, 2009
HOW COMMON ARE CITY LOCKDOWNS?

While the Wuhan lockdown is unprecedented in scale, other cities have...
Mexico City, Mexico
A worker in a protective suit disinfects the interior of a train carriage in Mexico City
HOW COMMON ARE CITY LOCKDOWNS?

While the Wuhan lockdown is unprecedented in scale, other cities have experienced shutdowns and partial closures.

In 2009, authorities in Mexico City closed bars, cinemas, churches, offices and other public places to try to stop the H1N1 pandemic, also known as swine flu, from spreading.

But shutdowns mainly occur in response to extreme weather events, like floods and storms, which are set to become more common with the intensifying effects of climate change, say emergency response experts.

In such cases, transport suspensions are also common, albeit for different reasons.

In 2012, New York City shut down train and subway services and implemented bridge and tunnel closures as it hunkered down for Hurricane Sandy.

During environmental hazards, authorities generally focus on getting people out of harm's way first, said Mark Kammerbauer, an urban and architectural researcher at the Nuremberg Institute of Technology who studies disaster recovery.

But, he noted, residents could be told to stay put when there is not enough time to evacuate, like in the case of a flash flood.

"Essentially that means you are confined within the city," he said. Pictured: A worker in a protective suit disinfects the interior of a train carriage to prevent the spread of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, formerly referred to as swine flu, at the Constitucion de 1917 subway station in Mexico City May 7, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar
CHINA-HEALTH/BRITAIN
RTS309CP
January 31, 2020
WILL MORE CITIES FOLLOW WUHAN'S LEAD?

While Wuhan and other Chinese cities are in virtual lockdown,...
London, United Kingdom
People wearing face masks are pictured in London
WILL MORE CITIES FOLLOW WUHAN'S LEAD?

While Wuhan and other Chinese cities are in virtual lockdown, replicating such measures elsewhere would be challenging, say health experts.

For one thing, the costs to the economy of a complete shutdown are very high, said Alexander.

With some factories halting operations and consumers staying home, efforts to contain the virus risk slowing economic growth in China. The virus impact prompted Goldman Sachs to cut its estimate for first-quarter growth to 4% from 5.6%.

Another reason the Wuhan lockdown is unlikely to be replicated outside China is that similar measures are harder to implement in Western democracies, noted Wenham at the LSE.

"I don't think other countries have ... the political ability to do it," she said.

"Can you imagine if they try to shut down London? I just can't see the UK population being ok with that." Pictured: People wearing face masks are pictured on Parliament Square, on Brexit day, in London, Britain January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
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