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Focus on 5 million people who left coronavirus-hit Chinese city before lockdown

A government worker sprays disinfectant on a residential building in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

SHANGHAI (Mainichi) -- Attention is focused on the whereabouts of over 5 million people who Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang says left the new coronavirus-hit city in central China's Hubei province before Chinese authorities imposed a transportation lockdown on Jan. 23.

These people are believed to include non-permanent residents such as migrating workers. Some 9 million people reportedly remain in the city, which has an official population of roughly 11 million.

On Jan. 29, which marked one week after access to Wuhan was cut off, Chinese media outlets reported the situation in the city as quiet, with fewer people seen on the streets.

Authorities are disinfecting various areas of China and conducting temperature checks, and are stepping up efforts to procure masks and daily necessities that are in short supply, while trying to prevent commodity prices from rising. Large hospitals to treat patients with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus are under construction.

From the viewpoint of preventing a further spread of the virus, government organizations are scrambling to identify trains, flights and buses used by people who left the city, and urged those who used them to report to the authorities and refrain from going out.

Based on big data on people's movements gathered by Chinese information technology companies, Chinese news organizations assume that 60 to 70% of people who left Wuhan between Jan. 10 and 22 headed to Henan, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, as well as the city of Chongqing.

Information on airline passengers indicates that more than 60,000 people flew to Beijing between Dec. 30 and Jan. 22. The largest number of people who left China are presumed to have flown to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand, followed by those who arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport and Narita International Airport east of Tokyo. Approximately 9,000 people from Wuhan are believed to have flown to Narita.

In various parts of China, villages and other bodies are beginning to install objects on roads to restrict outside access to their areas to prevent infections.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has declared that it will take punitive measures against those who block roads, on the grounds that such acts hinder the passage of emergency vehicles and the transportation of sick people to medical institutions.

(Japanese original by Akira Kudo, Shanghai Bureau)

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