China is struggling to contain rising public anger over its response to a spreading coronavirus even as it took unprecedented steps to slow the outbreak, restricting travel for 40 million people on the eve of Lunar New Year. The government ordered travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international package tours after imposing transport curbs on cities near the center of the outbreak. The turmoil comes as the virus stymies efforts to track infected patients. While the death toll continues to rise — and now includes someone as young as 36 — some infected patients aren’t showing a fever, a symptom governments around the world have been using to screen for the pathogen.
The pressure is rising on China as it tries to come to grips with a disease that some fear could rival SARS, which 17 years ago claimed almost 800 lives. While global experts have mostly praised efforts to contain the virus, Chinese citizens are increasingly critical and anxious as travel restrictions grow to encompass a population bigger than Australia.
The death toll rose to 25, even as the World Health Organization stopped short of calling the virus a global health emergency. The number of confirmed cases in mainland China rose to more than 800 as of Jan. 23, the National Health Commission said in a statement. At least one patient is as young as 10 years old.
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