REUTERS

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the government sought to signal it was responding seriously to the crisis, Reuters said.

The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, about half of them in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.

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As worries grew around the world, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei in the past 14 days. The ban did not cover Hong Kong residents.

The number of deaths from the flu-like virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China, including the southern island province of Hainan, which reported its first fatality on Monday.

While a small number of cases have been confirmed in more than 10 countries, linked to people who traveled from Wuhan, no deaths have been reported elsewhere.