Transport clampdown as Hubei's new boss toughens up provincial lockdown

Near-empty streets are seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Feb 7, 2020.
Near-empty streets are seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Feb 7, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - China's worst-hit province Hubei has intensified its lockdown measures by banning vehicle traffic in the latest move to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A provincial government notice on Sunday (Feb 16) said all cars except ambulances, police cars and vehicles transporting essential supplies will be prohibited from the roads.

Companies are also not allowed to resume business unless they have approval from the authorities, while residents must undergo health checks and are restricted from leaving their communities.

The tougher measures come just four days after former Shanghai mayor Ying Yong took over Hubei's top political job. His predecessor, Mr Jiang Chaoliang, was sacked as party chief amid public anger over the poor handling of the crisis.

Mr Ying is widely seen as an ally of President Xi Jinping and a member of the "New Zhijiang Army", a term used by political pundits to describe those closely associated with Mr Xi during his time as Zhejiang province's party boss.

Provincial capital Wuhan has banned motor vehicles from its roads since Jan 26 after the government ordered a lockdown of the city and suspended public transportation.

Various cities in Hubei also have lockdowns and severe restrictions of its residents' movements.

The Hubei government on Sunday also ordered all "non-essential" public venues except supermarkets and pharmacies to shut and barred gatherings.

Authorities said they will arrange for daily necessities to be delivered to residents confined to their homes.

Another directive was aimed at party members and cadres, who have been ordered to the villages to help curb the spread of the virus.

"Those who do not take the initiative to report or disobey the deployment shall be dealt with resolutely and seriously, and the head of the unit shall be held accountable," said the government notice.