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China Heads Into Shutdown As France Confirms Cases Of Deadly Coronavirus

Deaths caused by the deadly coronavirus in China have risen to 26 with more than 800 infected as the government his 10 cities with transport restrictions. And now the virus has reached France.

China has shut part of the Great Wall and suspended public transport in 10 cities, stranding millions of people at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday as authorities rush to contain a virus that has killed 26 people and infected more than 800.

The World Health Organization has declared the new coronavirus an "emergency in China" but stopped short of declaring it of international concern.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million at the centre of the outbreak, is in virtual lockdown. Nearly all flights at Wuhan's airport have been cancelled and checkpoints blocked the main roads leading out of town on Friday.

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Several people have been quarantined and are undergoing testing over fears they have contracted the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus.

As the city slides into isolation, pharmacies have begun to run out of supplies and hospitals have been flooded with nervous residents. The city is rushing to build a 1000-bed hospital by Monday, state media said.

A man wearing a face mask walks past a Coronavirus notice at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, 24 January 2020. Britain is to begin monitoring direct flights from China to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Image: AAP

The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000 sq m lot, slated for completion February 3.

Despite the lockdown, the virus is already spreading further afield.

The vast majority of the cases and all of the deaths have been in China, but it has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal and the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases, both in people who had travelled to Wuhan.

Following a congressional briefing by health officials, Republican Senator John Barrasso, a former physician, said people in the United States with the virus may have been infected as long as 14 days earlier in China.

"We want to try to stop and prevent people from coming to the United States if they have it," Barrasso told reporters, without providing any details of how that might be accomplished.

Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China.

The newly-identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

Coronavirus France

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn has two confirmed cases of the deadly new coronavirus from China, the first reported cases in Europe.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn speaking at a news conference. Image: Getty Images

France has confirmed its first two cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, with one patient being hospitalised in Paris and the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news conference on Friday these were the first two confirmed cases in Europe and that more cases were likely to occur in France.

Earlier, the charity SOS Medecins said it had treated a patient of Chinese origin who was showing symptoms of a fever and who said he had been in contact with people from Wuhan province in China, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Buzyn said this patient was 48 years old and had returned two days ago from a trip to China which included a stop in Wuhan.

"He's been put in an insulated room so as to avoid any contact with the outside world. He's fine", she said.

Buzyn said she had no information yet on the second case, in Paris, which had just been confirmed.

The virus has created alarm, but there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can lead to pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the virus an "emergency in China", but stopped short of declaring it a global health emergency.

Buzyn said the official advice to those suspecting they might have caught the virus was not to go to hospital - to avoid spreading it - but to call a special number where they would be told what to do.

The minister said she planned to hold daily press conferences on the issue.