China Indefinitely Halts Film and TV Production Nationwide As Virus Deaths Surpass SARS

China has officially ordered an indefinite halt to all film production in the country as it seeks to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has swept the nation.

The death toll in China stands at 361 – higher now than that of SARS, which killed 349. China has confirmed 17,205 cases as of Sunday, with numbers rapidly rising, and as of Monday, there are 11 confirmed cases in the U.S.

Over the weekend, the producers’ and actors’ associations of the China Federation of Radio and TV Associations co-issued a notice declaring that all film and TV production companies, crews and actors are to suspend film and TV drama shoots until the unspecified time when the period of heightened virus prevention has passed. Those who don’t stop production will be held “responsible,” it said, without providing further detail.

Film industry professionals have the right to refuse to participate in shoots during the epidemic period, and can report shoots that continue unabated to the local authorities and industry associations.

“This is a necessary move given the current special situation,” the producers’ association’s secretary-general Li Gang told the People’s Daily newspaper.

The notice comes after a number of productions and facilities voluntarily shut themselves down, including the mega studio at Hengdian, which announced last Monday that all productions there would halt, and at the giant Qingdao studios.

Chinese citizens nationwide remain isolated in self-imposed quarantine in their homes, and more than a dozen major metropolises have been under lockdown measures restricting travel. In more than half the country, businesses have been ordered to extend their Chinese new year holiday and not resume working until at least Feb. 10, bringing the economy to a standstill.

Chinese reports predicted a definite decline in the number of films and TV shows produced this year, particularly as the epidemic stretches into the spring, a key period for production. “This and next year, there may be a ‘content shortage’ phenomenon,” assessed a local newspaper from Wuhan, the city at the disease’s epicenter.

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