17 deaths, 444 cases of new viral pneumonia reported in Hubei

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A medical worker takes a passenger's body temperature at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei province, Jan. 22, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

A total of 444 cases of new coronavirus-related pneumonia and 17 deaths had been reported in central China's Hubei province as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to local authorities.

Among the confirmed cases, 399 patients are receiving treatment in hospitals, with 71 in severe condition and 24 in critical condition, said Yang Yunyan, deputy governor of the province, at a press conference.

A total of 2,556 close contacts had been placed under medical observation, with 863 people released.

Among 69 cases newly reported in Hubei on Wednesday, 62 were in the capital city of Wuhan, where the first case was reported.

To curb the pneumonia epidemic, Wuhan has introduced a compulsory policy that asks citizens to wear masks before entering public places.

Employees of government organs, enterprises and public institutions are also required to wear masks at workplaces, said an announcement issued by the city government Wednesday evening.

Public venue operators should set up clear reminders for members of the public to wear masks at points of entry and refuse entry to those who do not comply, said the announcement.

Wuhan has also strengthened control of vehicles coming in and out of the city by establishing and improving epidemic prevention and control checkpoints at major junctions.

The checkpoints will check temperatures of those leaving the city and inspect any animals carried by vehicles entering the city to crack down on the illegal transportation and sale of wildlife.

The Hubei provincial government has activated a level II public health emergency response, the second-highest in the country. A headquarters headed by Mayor Zhou Xianwang has also been established in the provincial capital of Wuhan for the control and treatment of the pneumonia. 

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