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Too early to know if China lockdown effective in limiting coronavirus spread: experts

As health authorities work to contain the quick-spreading new coronavirus that has caused panic internationally, Chinese officials continue to impose restrictive travel measures.

Last week, China announced the first round of drastic containment efforts, suspending plane, train and bus links to Wuhan — a city of 11 million people believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak.

Now, the lockdown has expanded to 17 cities, encompassing more than 50 million people.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong announced additional restrictions, saying the region would be cutting all rail links to mainland China.

According to figures released by China early Tuesday, more than 4,500 people were sickened with the virus on the country’s mainland.

The new strain of coronavirus has now killed 106 people. The majority of the fatalities have been in China’s Hubei province.

Are these stringent travel restrictions and mass quarantines an effective way of limiting the spread of infectious viruses?

Here’s what experts say.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases faculty member at the University of Toronto, said restricting travel to this extent is “unprecedented.”

“I don’t think anyone can look you in the eye and tell you with a straight face whether or not this will work or will not work, because we’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

Bogoch said the restrictions could slow the epidemic down and reduce the risk of transmission outside of the most heavily affected areas.

“It enables health units and clinical units to care for ill individuals and really prevent further spread of this infection throughout China,” he said.

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