- Chinese new year celebrations hampered as china in lockdown due to Coronavirus scare.
- Number cases rise 20times in the last 2 weeks accelerating the death toll
- The virus spreads to Europe as France report cases.
- 63 patients under observation in the US
- China building a new hospital to counter the epidemic
- Cruises are banned in China amidst panic and scanning spree at ports
- Pharmacies in Wuhan are running out of supplies
- WHO says it is too early to declare a global public health emergency as international teams begin vaccine research.
- Experts say mass quarantine may drive the epidemic underground.
According to a Reuters report, a new coronavirus that has killed 26 people in China was confirmed in Europe for the first time on Friday as it spreads despite Chinese attempts to quarantine the city at the heart of the outbreak.
Cases in France
- According to a Sky News report, the new strain of coronavirus has reached Europe after France confirmed three cases.
- A 48-year-old man is being treated in a Bordeaux hospital in the southwest of the country after testing positive.
- He had passed through the Chinese city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – before arriving in France on Wednesday.
- Two other people are in hospital in Paris. They also travelled to China and are believed to belong to the same family.
- Health minister Agnes Buzyn said France has developed a test doctors can use to quickly diagnose patients and this was one reason why it was the first European nation to confirm cases.
- Ms Buzyn predicted there would probably be more positive tests in her country.
China Shuts Down
- Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was the first city to shut down transportation.
- A day later, nearby cities announced similar measures closing also entertainment centers.
France reported two cases on Friday evening, the first ones discovered in Europe. More were likely, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million where the virus was first identified, is in virtual lockdown. Nearly all flights at Wuhan’s airport have been canceled and checkpoints block the main roads leading out of town.
Despite the lockdown, the virus is already spreading further afield.
The vast majority of the cases and all of the deaths have been in China, but it has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal and the United States. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the new virus.
China Building New Hospital
- China announced today it is building a new 1,000-bed hospital in just six days to treat victims of the virus.
- Work has started on the structure in Wuhan in the style of a facility Beijing constructed during the SARS epidemic 17 years ago.
- Machinery including 35 diggers and 10 bulldozers arrived at the site on Thursday night, with the aim of the hospital being operational by 3 February.
Death Toll Rises
- It comes as the coronavirus death toll in China increased to 41 and the number of confirmed cases around the world was 1,287.
- Lockdowns to contain the new virus have been extended to at least 10 cities – including nine in Hubei province – effectively isolating 33 million people.
- Restrictions include the suspension of public transport services, while some cities have also shut public venues such as temples and cinemas.
- Authorities have warned of more stringent and targeted measures.
“The spread of the virus has not been cut off. Local authorities should take more responsibility and have a stronger sense of urgency,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
Virus in the US
The United States announced a second case after a woman was found to have contracted the strain. She is in her 60s and is being treated in a Chicago hospital where she is reportedly doing well. She had travelled to Wuhan in December before flying home to Illinois.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it had 63 patients under investigation, with two confirmed cases, both in people who had traveled to Wuhan.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China.
The Reason for Virus Scare
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.
It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.
Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. Most of the fatalities have been in elderly patients, many with pre-existing medical conditions, the World Health Organization said.
As of Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said there were 830 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.
What do we know about the new virus?
- There is no vaccine for the new viral infection, which can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.
- The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
- Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, the WHO has said the primary source is probably an animal.
- Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as SARS – which killed nearly 800 people during the 2002-03 outbreak.
- When a new strain emerges that has not yet been identified, as with the current outbreak, it becomes known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV).
‘SENSE OF URGENCY’
Most cases have been in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated in a market that traded illegally in wildlife.
As China scrambles to contain the outbreak, it has suspended transportation in 10 cities in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, the Hubei Daily reported.
“Local authorities should take more responsibility and have a stronger sense of urgency,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
Chinese New Year Celebrations Hampered
Week-long celebrations to welcome the Year of the Rat began on Friday, raising fears that the infection rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of people travel to see family at home and abroad.
In Wuhan, a handful of people got off a high-speed train that pulled into the city’s station on Friday but nobody boarded.
“What choice do I have? It’s Chinese New Year. We have to see our family,” said a man getting off the train who gave his family name Hu.
As part of the restrictions, some sections of the Great Wall near Beijing will be closed from Saturday, state media said.
Beijing’s Lama Temple, where people traditionally make offerings for the new year, has closed, as have some other temples and the Forbidden City, the capital’s most famous tourist attraction.
Shanghai Disneyland will close starting on Saturday. The theme park has a 100,000 daily capacity and sold out during last year’s new year holiday.
Film premieres have been postponed and McDonald’s suspended business in five cities in Hubei province.
“There’s so much news, so much data, every 10 minutes there’s an update, it’s frightening, especially for people like us in a severely hit area,” Lily Jin, 30, a resident of Wuhan, told Reuters by phone.
The WHO said on Thursday it was a “bit too early” to designate the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, which would require countries to step up their response.
That decision could well be reassessed in coming days as the situation evolves, said Anthony Fauci, the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s top infectious disease official, adding that it was “open to question” whether shutting down travel would have a major effect.
Three international research teams – using different approaches – have begun work on vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said.
Lockdown Forcing Epidemic Underground?:
“The mass involuntary quarantine in Wuhan and its neighboring cities is counterproductive,” added Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington. “A lockdown of Wuhan will drive the epidemic underground, provoking fear and panic.”
Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the one that caused the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which also began in China and killed nearly 800 people, or the one that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.
Outbreak Curbing Tourism
Markets have been roiled this week on fears that the outbreak will curb travel and hurt economic demand. Shares in luxury goods companies have been particularly hard hit on fears of a drop in demand from China.
Chinese media report major cruise companies implementing mass boarding ban for all tourists who’re about to embark ships, if they come from Wuhan city or Hebei Province, or even if they were in Wuhan in 15-day period prior to cruise. All passengers whose trip is suspended are offered refund options. Such companies as Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, MSC Mediterranean Cruises, Dream Cruises, Star Cruises and Oceania Cruises, implement these strict measures on Jan 24 in order to prevent coronavirus outbreak on board of their ships, say Chinese media.
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