China’s deadly coronavirus has claimed its first life outside the city of Wuhan, the epicenter where the infectious disease began, officials confirmed Thursday as they expanded their unprecedented lockdown affecting nearly 25 million people.
The 80-year-old victim died in the province of Hebei, near Beijing, after visiting relatives in Wuhan for more than two months, according to local reports.
The man died Wednesday but his death was not confirmed until Thursday, Hebei’s health commission said. Nearly 80 people who had been in contact with the victim have been quarantined.
The death brings the total number of coronavirus victims to 25, more than half of which occurred in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. Meanwhile, at least 830 cases of people infected by the disease have been reported worldwide.
Authorities in the central Chinese province have imposed travel bans on eight of its cities, including Wuhan, the South China Morning Post reported. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei and has been the epicenter of the outbreak of the coronavirus, first detected in December.
Chinese officials on Thursday locked down at least six cities: Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Chibi, Qianjiang, Zhijiang, Jingmen and Xiantao — all in central China’s Hubei province, where the illness has been concentrated, during the busy Lunar New Year travel period. The open-ended lockdowns are unmatched in size, embracing more people than New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined.
In Wuhan, where the lockdown began early Thursday, normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet. Masks were mandatory in public. The train station and airport were closed, and ferry, subway and bus service was halted; police checked all incoming vehicles but did not close off the roads.
The five other cities under lockdown as of Friday morning are near Wuhan, but authorities were taking precautions around the country. In the capital, Beijing, major public events were canceled indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of Lunar New Year celebrations. The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.
Officials in Beijing canceled major events indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, to help control the spread of the virus.
Fox News’ Mike Arroyo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.