Authorities in Beijing have reportedly cancelled all large-scale Chinese New Year celebrations in a bid to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Action in the Chinese capital comes as health secretary Matt Hancock warned of an “increased likelihood” of the condition, which has claimed 17 lives so far, reaching the UK.
“In order to control the epidemic, protect people’s lives and health, reduce the mass gathering and ensure people to have a harmonious and peaceful spring festival, it is decided to cancel all the large-scale events, including temple fairs, in Beijing as of today,” a governmental Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau told broadcaster CNN in a statement.
“Citizens shall strengthen the preventative measures and support the decision. We will notify the policy changes with the epidemic development [...] and wish all citizens a happy spring festival.”
The outbreak has been largely centred around the Chinese city of Wuhan, nearly 700 miles from Beijing.
Authorities had confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths by the end of Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission said. Earlier, it said another 393 suspected cases had been reported.
Of eight known cases worldwide, Thailand has confirmed four, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States have reported one each.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it will decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the international response.
Meanwhile, Hancock assured MPs the UK was on standby should the virus reach its shores.
“The UK is one of the first countries to have developed a world-leading test for the new coronavirus,” he told the Commons.
“The NHS is ready to respond appropriately to any cases that emerge.
“Clinicians both in primary and secondary care have already received advice covering initial detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and control and clinical diagnostics.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.