China suspends tour groups from travelling abroad to slow spread of novel coronavirus

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      Update: Today (January 25), Canada reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. For more information, see this article.

      Original article:

      Chinese president Xi Jinping is taking more aggressive action to control a deadly epidemic.

      Today, his government prohibited tour groups from travelling abroad after 15 more deaths were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

      This brings the death toll to 41. One of the recent casualties was a doctor.

      In the early days of the outbreak, China's leaders came under criticism for downplaying the problem.

      But the state news agency Xinhua insists that President Xi is focusing tremendous attention on this issue, ordering party committees and governments to make it their top priority

      "Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it," Xi said.

      Complicating matters is the timing—the novel coronavirus spread in advance of Lunar New Year, which is the busiest travel time of the year in East Asia.

      China has also announced that two hospitals are under construction in response to this new flu virus.

      The World Health Organization said earlier this month that the "primary source" is believed to be an animal at a seafood market in Wuhan. And European health officials are preparing for the possibility of more cases after the virus was detected in France.

      "Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed but more information is needed to evaluate the full extent of this mode of transmission," says the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on its website. "The source of infection is unknown and could still be active."

      In a new development in this story, four novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Australia.

      In the meantime, the U.S. government has ordered its employees to evacuate the consulate in Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million. And Canada closed its visa application centre in Wuhan on January 23 because of the health crisis.

      Video: Australia has confirmed the appearance of novel coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China.

      The United States, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore have also recorded cases.

      According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the risk to British Columbians remains low.

      At this point, there has been no confirmation of the novel coronavirus showing up in B.C.