WRAPUP 2-China coronavirus toll rises to 259, U.S. imposes border curbs

* U.S. imposes border curbs on foreigners who have been in China

* Hubei province, virus epicentre, in lock-down

* Schools and business close, multinationals warn against travel (Recasts; adds bullet points, United Nations venue change, Walmart travel restrictions, human rights group reaction)

By David Stanway and Winni Zhou

SHANGHAI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The number of deaths from a coronavirus epidemic in China rose by 46 to 259 on Friday, the country's health authority said on Saturday, as the United States announced new border curbs on foreign nationals who have been in China.

The province of Hubei, the centre of the epidemic, remains under virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down, but small numbers of travellers continue to breach the lockdown.

Amid fears that the virus could spread further overseas, the United States announced measures to restrict entry to foreign nationals who have recently been in China. All three major U.S. airlines also said on Friday they would cancel flights to mainland China.

Cities across China continue to implement special measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pathogen. Tianjin, a city in northern China with around 15 million people, said all schools and businesses would be suspended until further notice.

The U.S.-based China Human Rights Defenders urged the Chinese government to ease restrictions on movement and counter discrimination against residents of Wuhan and Hubei, adding that censorship had contributed to the spread of the virus.

"Human rights must not be a casualty of the government’s work to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 200 people and affected millions," the group said.

The World Health Organization, which declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday, has praised China's response to the outbreak.

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The United Nations has announced it has moved a key round of talks on a new biodiversity treaty originally scheduled to take place in Kunming in southwest China on Feb. 24. The talks will now take place in .

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Walmart Inc, the world's largest retailer, also announced it is temporarily limiting "non-business critical travel" to China, the latest of dozens of major companies restricting travel due to the outbreak.

China's National Health Commission said there were 2,102 new confirmed infections in China during Friday, bringing the cumulative total to 11,791.

The local health commission of Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, earlier on Saturday reported 45 new deaths from the outbreak on Friday, bringing the total to 249. The other death on Friday was in the southwest city of Chongqing.

Hubei has confirmed 1,347 new cases of infection on Friday, with the total reaching 7,153 by the end of the day.

Hubei's provincial capital Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originated, reported 576 new confirmed cases over the day, and also saw 33 deaths from the virus. A total of 192 people in Wuhan have now died.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and David Stanway in Shanghai, Yilei Sun in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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