BEIJING - Chinese authorities have urged people to stop travelling in and out of Wuhan, the city at the centre of a new virus outbreak that has killed nine. Those living in the city of 8.9 million people have also been told to avoid crowds and minimise public gatherings. The new virus has spread from Wuhan to several Chinese provinces, as well as the US, Thailand and South Korea.

There are 440 confirmed cases, with the origin a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”.

“Basically, do not go to Wuhan. And those in Wuhan please do not leave the city,” said National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin in one of the first public briefings since the beginning of the outbreak.

Authorities also admitted that the country was now at the “most critical stage” of prevention and control. China earlier this week confirmed that human-to-human transmission of the virus had taken place. The virus, known also as 2019-nCoV, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans. The Sars virus that killed nearly 800 people globally in the early 2000s was also a coronavirus.

Lowry painting owned by British scientist sells for $3.4m

LONDON - A recently discovered painting by British artist LS Lowry sold for more than £2.6 million after 70 years in the hands of a pioneering DNA researcher who helped discover the double helix. The Mill, Pendlebury was painted in 1943 and depicts an industrial landscape in the north west of England, inspired, like the majority of Lowry’s work, by the mills, factories, chimney stacks and bustle of the country’s industrial heartlands.

The piece shows the Acme Spinning Company Mill, which became the first in Britain to be powered entirely by electricity when it opened in 1905.

But it also features clearly defined figures of families enjoying a day out, instead of the vaguer ‘matchstick’ men in the shadow of the urban landscape that recur in many of his paintings. The art world was unaware of the painting’s existence until the death of Manchester-born scientist Dr Leonard D Hamilton - who helped discover the structure of DNA - in August last year.

Hamilton bought the painting in the early stages of Lowry’s career and hung it in his room while studying medicine at the University of Oxford.

While working at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York, Leonard D Hamilton developed a technique for extracting DNA.

The rich DNA samples created by his technique allowed Maurice Wilkins of King’s College London to generate the X-ray crystallography images from which went on to reveal DNA’s double-helix structure.

The discovery earned Mr Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

He took it with him when he moved to the US in 1949, where he went on to make a major contribution to the discovery of the double helix shape of DNA. The painting was sold to a private collector for £2.65 million on Tuesday evening at London auction house Christies.