China county offers reward for identifying people from virus-hit Wuhan

People wearing face masks walk at the Tiananmen Gate, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China January 27, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIJING (Reuters) - A county in northern China is offering 1,000 yuan ($145) to tipsters who report the presence of anyone from Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, who has not already registered with authorities, the local government TV station said on Monday.

Zhengding county’s TV channel gave two hotline numbers on its Weibo account - one for the local government office and one for the county’s Communist Party office - in a move that was applauded by many on social media as a necessary measure in extraordinary times.

“If you don’t report yourselves, don’t blame others for reporting you. We want to live,” one user said.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 2,800 people in China, with 81 dead, and has spread to several countries.

Residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province have faced growing scrutiny as the outbreak worsens, with Hong Kong barring entry to non-Hong Kongers who had been in the province in the previous two weeks and halting trains and flights from Wuhan.

Neighborhood officials in Chinese cities have also been asking residents to report whether they’ve been to Hubei or had visitors from the province.

Wuhan is on virtual lock-down, and transportation in much of Hubei has been curtailed.

Zhengding county in Hebei province, a three-hour train ride from Beijing, is well known in China as the former home of President Xi Jinping, who worked there between 1982 and 1985 as party secretary.

Reporting by Sophie Yu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Giles Elgood