BEIJING (Reuters) – Bundled up in winter clothes as they head home for the Lunar New Year holiday amid a health scare over a mystery new virus, Chinese travelers on the teeming concourse of Beijing West station were evenly split between the masked and the barefaced.
Covering up was clearly the best decision for many of the passengers waiting to board the packed train carriages for the 5-1/2 hour journey to Wuhan, the epicenter of an outbreak that has sent shivers through the world’s most populous country.
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Going back to her hometown, 28-year-old Tan Jie has been ribbed at work about the danger of contracting the new coronavirus, but the blue surgical mask on her face shows she is taking the risk seriously.
“My Beijing colleagues joked and said ‘when you come back to work, we’ll have to quarantine you for two weeks,'” Tan said, trying to make light of the dampener the scare has put on the most important holiday for Chinese families.
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So far three people have died, and authorities globally have counted more than 200 reported cases. On Monday, China confirmed the first cases in the country outside Wuhan, in Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong.
Liao Guang and her husband are looking forward to being reunited with their two-year-old child in Yichang, a city in the same province as Wuhan, and rushed to buy masks before traveling, as alarm spread on social media after the number of confirmed cases tripled over the weekend.
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“All the trending items were about this pneumonia outbreak, so I thought we should buy a mask and take some kind of a preventative measure,” said Liao, a petite 26-year-old, trailing a wheelie bag.
“I think during this (holiday), we’re not going to go out too much, and probably won’t go to places...
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