Beijing to suspend domestic, overseas Chinese group tours: state media

Starting Monday, all overseas group tour services, including hotel and plane ticket bookings, from Chinese travel agencies will be suspended, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

FILE: Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on 22 January 2020. Picture: AFP

BEIJING - China will suspend both domestic and overseas Chinese group tours, state media reported Saturday, as it ramps up efforts to contain a new SARS-like virus that has infected nearly 1,300 people.

Starting Monday, all overseas group tour services, including hotel and plane ticket bookings, from Chinese travel agencies will be suspended, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Domestic tour groups were suspended from Friday, it said.

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned China was facing a "grave situation" given the "accelerating spread" of the deadly coronavirus, state media reported Saturday.

"Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus... it is necessary to strengthen the centralised and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee," Xi said, according to official news agency Xinhua.

The comments come as Chinese authorities scramble to contain the new virus, which first emerged in central Wuhan city, but has spread to at least 30 regions and provinces in China.

Wuhan authorities put the city and its 11 million inhabitants under effective quarantine on Thursday - with provincial authorities in Hubei later expanding the transport ban to at least 18 cities.

Regions far from the epidemic epicentre, such as Beijing, have also started to clamp down on the flow of people, as the death toll from the virus rises to at least 41.