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Virus 'grave' as Lunar New Year curtailed, says China

Wuhan (China): President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a "grave situation" as authorities raced to contain a virus that has killed 41 people and caused a drastic scale-back of Lunar New Year celebrations.

The world's most populous country, which is scrambling to contain the disease that has infected nearly 1,300 people and overwhelmed health facilities, is building a second field hospital and closing more travel routes.

After more countries reported cases, Xi said at a Communist Party leadership meeting on the disease that China was "faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus" but that the country will "definitely be able to win the battle," according to state media.

Meanwhile China's most important celebration has been all but cancelled for at least 56 million people as authorities expanded travel bans across central Hubei province to try and contain the spread of the virus.

In Wuhan, the epicentre of the emergency, 450 military medics were deployed to help treat patients in Hubei's capital city, where a seafood and live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak. On Saturday, when they should have been celebrating the New Year, people waiting at one hospital in the city were angry and frustrated. "It takes at least five hours to see a doctor," one woman, who didn't want to be named, the reporter said. One man in his 30s said some people had to queue for two days. Many people had brought their own chairs for the wait. Wuhan authorities will race to build the second makeshift hospital within a fortnight, state media reported, adding 1,300 new beds.

They already started work Friday on the first new field hospital, which could be ready in just over a week.

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