The worsening coronavirus outbreak has prompted Chinese officials to extend the Lunar New Year holiday in an attempt to curb the spread of the deadly disease, which has infected thousands and killed more than 100 in the country so far.
Tens of millions of people across Asia had been due to travel back home on Jan. 30 after visiting their families and tourist sites over the holiday, which began on Jan. 24.
Chinese officials extended the holiday until Feb. 2 to "reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic." Universities and primary and secondary schools will also remain on holiday until further notice, the government said. The city of Shanghai went further, extending its holidays until Feb. 9, Reuters reported.
Public health officials are bracing themselves for many more cases of the virus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December. Neil Ferguson, a public health expert from London's Imperial College, told The Guardian there may already be 100,000 people affected by the virus, according to his team's research models.
Chinese officials have imposed a lockdown on Wuhan and 14 other major cities in an attempt to contain the spread, forcing some 50 million people to remain in place.
About 1,000 U.S. citizens were still in Wuhan Tuesday, CBS News reported, many of them hoping to be evacuated on charter flights.
Known as 2019-nCoV, the new disease is one of seven known coronaviruses in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are two other types of coronaviruses that have caused mass illness in the past.