Authorities in Wuhan have reversed a decision that would have allowed some people to leave the quarantined city at the centre of China's deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The city government said in a statement that the previous announcement had been made by a traffic prevention and control group "without the consent" of the local leadership.

It said the announcement was now "declared invalid".

The city of 11 million has been under lockdown since 23 January after authorities shut down transport links into and out of the city in an effort to contain the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The official number of new cases has been in the hundreds for the past five days, after being in quadruple digits every day for weeks.

The original announcement said that non-residents could leave the city if they showed no symptoms of the virus and had never had contact with patients.

People with special reasons to leave the city, including those who need treatment for other medical conditions and those doing epidemic prevention work, could also leave Wuhan, the statement said.

It said departures had to be staggered and people needed to apply for permission from local authorities.


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China has decided to postpone the annual meeting of its parliament due in March for the first time since the Cultural Revolution, as the country fights to contain the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported.

The standing committee of the National People's Congress will decide on a new date later, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Hong Kong will bar non-residents arriving from South Korea from tomorrow morning in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak, the city's security chief said.

"Considering the development of the epidemic in South Korea, the Security Bureau will issue a red travel alert," John Lee told reporters.

"We also urge Hong Kong residents not to travel there unless necessary," he added. 

Hundreds of foreign nationals have been airlifted from Wuhan back to their countries by several governments including the US, France and Britain.

Covid-19 has killed nearly 2,600 people and infected some 77,000 in China.

The epidemic's spread has slowed down in China outside of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, while multiple other provinces have reported zero new infections for several days in a row.

All but 11 of China's 409 new cases today were reported in Hubei.

Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated late last year, continues to account for the majority of new cases and deaths in the country.

Wuhan today reported 348 new virus cases, while five cities and the Shennongjia Forestry District in Hubei reported no new cases.  

Experts from the World Health Organization visited Wuhan over the weekend.

They also met with Ma Xiaowei, the director of China's national health commission, and top officials at the centre for disease control for Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

South Korea confirmed 70 more novel coronavirus cases, bringing its tally to 833, by far the largest national total outside China.

The updated figures on the website of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) brought the country's daily increase to 231, its highest to date. 


Latest developments in spread of disease

The virus has killed 2,442 and infected 76,936 people in China, and slammed the brakes on the world's second-largest economy.

International worries about the spread of coronavirus outside China grew, with the WHO expressing concern about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link.

Outside China, there have been more than 1,400 cases in more than 30 countries, the WHO said. That includes new cases in Afghanistan, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Italy is battling the largest flare-up of the disease yet seen in Europe, with six people dying of the illness since Friday and more than 150 cases reported.

Almost a dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto with a combined population of 50,000 have effectively been placed under quarantine.

Austria suspended train services over the Alps to Italy for about four hours last night before restarting them after two travellers tested negative for the virus.

South Korea reported 70 new cases of the virus today, bringing the total number of infected patients to 833, a day after the government raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level.

South Korean airlines said they are suspending flights to Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city with the largest number of coronavirus cases, for the time being.

The start of the South Korean football season has been postponed because of the virus.

Iran, which announced its first two cases on Wednesday, said it had confirmed 47 cases and 12 deaths. Most of the infections were in the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom.

Hong Kong said it had 74 confirmed cases, up from 69 on Saturday. The death toll there is three.

New Zealand has extended a ban on arrivals from mainland China in to a fourth week to contain the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

A third passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan died yesterday.

Four passengers tested positive for coronavirus in England after being evacuated from the virus-infected cruise ship.

In the US, the Trump administration has backed off plans to quarantine patients from the cruise ship at a federal facility in Alabama.