Art & Culture
Foreign Affairs
Parliament of India
United Nations
Photo Gallery
Advertise with Us
Contact Us


Over 75,000 could be infected in Wuhan, major Chinese cities under threat: Lancet study

BEIJING, Jan 31: More than 75000 persons in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, could have been infected by the virus, the prestigious medical journal Lancet said Friday, adding that many major cities in the country could also be primed for localised epidemics.

“New modelling research, published in The Lancet, estimates that up to 75,800 individuals in the Chinese city of Wuhan may have been infected with 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as of January 25, 2020,” the publication said in the latest study unveiled late on Friday.

The modelling study suggested that “…multiple major Chinese cities might have already imported dozens of cases of 2019-nCoV infection from Wuhan, in numbers sufficient to initiate local epidemics”.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Hong Kong.

It estimates that in the early stages of the Wuhan outbreak-- from December 1, 2019 to January 25, 2020-- each person infected with 2019-nCoV could have infected up to 2-3 other individuals on average, and that the epidemic doubled in size every 6.4 days. “During this period, up to 75,815 individuals could have been infected in Wuhan,” it says.

“Additionally, estimates suggest that cases of 2019-nCoV infection may have spread from Wuhan to multiple other major Chinese cities as of January 25, including Guangzhou (111 cases), Beijing (113), Shanghai (98), and Shenzhen (80). Together these cities account for over half of all outbound international air travel from China,” the study added.

Lead author Professor Joseph Wu from the University of Hong Kong said if the transmissibility of the virus is similar nationally, then it is possible that epidemics could be already growing in multiple major Chinese cities with a time lag of one to two weeks behind the Wuhan outbreak.

Wu said some large cities outside China could also become outbreak epicentres.

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could potentially also become outbreak epicentres because of the substantial spread of pre-symptomatic cases unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately.”

The authors also pointed out the limitations of the study.

The accuracy of the estimates depends on their assumption about the “zoonotic” (animal to human transmission) source of infection in Wuhan.

They highlighted that their models assume travel behaviour of the people was not affected by disease status and that all infections eventually have symptoms—so it is possible that milder cases may have gone undetected which could underestimate the size of the outbreak.

I’m more useful here: French doctor stays put in virus-hit Wuhan

WUHAN, Jan 31: France is preparing to airlift hundreds of its citizens from the Chinese city at the centre of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, but one Frenchman is staying put.

Philippe Klein is head of the International SOS Hospital in Wuhan, the first city to be locked down by Chinese authorities as they battle the spread of the virus.

“It’s not an act of heroism. It’s been well thought out, it’s my job,” Klein said of his decision to stay.

“I think I’ll be much more useful here than in France.”

The new coronavirus has killed 170 people so far in mainland China, with thousands infected across the country. The virus has been detected in more than a dozen other countries, including as far away as the United States and Canada.

Klein said he wants to help the local French community. Some 500 French nationals are registered with the nation’s consulate in Wuhan.

French auto giant PSA and Renault have factories in the city, and the local universities run exchange programmes with institutions in France.

Not all French nationals are leaving -- some for professional or family reasons, and others do not want to spend 14 days in quarantine upon their return to France.

But Klein, a father of four who has been based in China for six years, recommends they do leave.

“The concern now is that the Chinese hospitals are currently one hundred percent mobilised in controlling this coronavirus epidemic, so there are lots of ways humans could contract other infections or diseases,” the Metz native said.

“It would therefore not be appropriate at this time to go to a Chinese hospital under these circumstances. That’s why I strongly recommend the French people in Wuhan go back to France.”

The coronavirus has sparked fear of a wider, global outbreak. In addition to controlling the flow of people from affected areas in China, face masks have also been made mandatory in many areas, including Wuhan.

Many stores in big cities like Beijing have run out of stock in recent days.

But Klein suggests keeping the outbreak in perspective.

He says it’s important to remember that the flu “can kill up to 550,000 people on the planet in one season” in normal times.

“I wear the mask regularly when I go out. It’s an obligation imposed by the local authorities, so everyone here in Wuhan is wearing a mask,” he said.

But it is mostly sick people who need to wear the mask, “so that they don’t spread the virus”.

“Psychologically, it’s an interesting thing, wearing a mask. Of course, it’s reassuring and it probably stops you from putting your hands up to your mouth,” he added.

“The most important thing is to have good hygiene and wash your hands frequently.”

For Klein, staying in China is his job, and what he has been trained to do.

“I am a virus tamer,” he says, and staying in China, it is “as if I was with a lion in its cage”.

WHO declares coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern

NEW YORK, Jan 30: The World Health Organization (WHO) named the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, a public health emergency of international concern.

Outside of China, there are now 98 confirmed cases in 18 countries, including eight person-to-person transmissions in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S., according to comments made by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, on Thursday afternoon.

At least 170 people have died in China, and nearly 8,000 have been sickened. "Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it," Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The move reversed the organization’s decision just a week ago to hold off such a declaration. Since then, there have been thousands of new cases in China and clear evidence of human-to-human transmission in several other countries, including the United States.

All of which warranted a reconsideration by the W.H.O.’s emergency committee, officials said.

The declaration “is not a vote of no confidence in China,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general. “On the contrary, the W.H.O. continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”

The declaration comes now, he said, because of fears that the coronavirus may reach countries with weak health care systems, where it could run amok, potentially infecting millions of people and killing thousands.

Coronavirus death toll surges to 170, more than 8100 now infected in China

BEIJING, Jan 30: The death from the novel Coronavirus has climbed to 170, health officials said on Thursday, adding that more than 8,100 people across China are now infected with the disease.

China’s national health commission (NHC) said Thursday that at least 1,370 are critically ill with the infection and there are 12,167 suspected to have been infected with the previously unknown virus.

Beijing is reported to have at least 111 confirmed cases and the number has also crossed 100 in the financial capital, Shanghai.

More than 160 deaths have been reported from the central Chinese province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, which is at the epicentre of the deadly and rapidly spreading outbreak.

The virus has now spread to at least 16 countries globally.

Meanwhile, the WHO DG, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said the situation is of grave concern and reconvened the Geneva-based organisation’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on novel coronavirus 2019, to advise it on whether the outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

“The WHO is monitoring this outbreak every moment of every day. We share the concern of many people who are worried for their own health and that of their friends and family. The emergence of any new pathogen with the potential to cause severe illness and death is of grave concern and must be taken with the utmost seriousness,” Tedros said in a press conference in Geneva after returning from China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The continued increase in cases, and the evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, are both deeply concerning. Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” he added.

“I have therefore decided to reconvene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on novel coronavirus 2019, to advise me on whether the outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern, and to seek their recommendations on how best to protect people all over the world – while recognising what China is doing,” he said.

China virus toll 136 dead; Over 6,000 cases reported

BEIJING, Jan 29: The deadly novel coronavirus has so far spread to at least 18 countries, including Germany, Australia and the United States. China has reported an increase in fatalities and infections as the virus has claimed over 136 lives, with the number of cases soaring overnight.

Nearly 6056 cases have been reported in 18 countries and territories. Chinese authorities said the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak.

Governments, global companies and international health organizations rushed to contain the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. As containment efforts intensify, the likelihood of the virus disrupting global businesses and the world’s second-largest economy appears to be growing.

Anxiety is growing amid evidence that the disease has an incubation period of as long as two weeks before those infected start to show signs of the illness. That raises the possibility that people who are carrying the virus but don’t show symptoms could infect others.

Here are the latest developments:

Coronavirus's mild symptoms open a path for spread of infection

That seems like good news, but it’s exactly what worries the scientists and public health experts who study infectious disease ranging from the terrifying to the mundane.

“These hot viruses are very scary and very deadly, but unless they land in the middle of Heathrow Airport or another densely populated place, they aren’t likely to be long-lasting," said Jennifer Rohn, head of the center for urological biology at the University College London and an expert in pandemics. “They burn fast, and burn through the population. A virus needs a host to survive."

In an epidemiological twist of fate, the coronavirus’s mildness may help it spread undetected until it hits the most vulnerable people. Experts are concerned that it could find a devastating “sweet spot"—mild enough that some patients will go about their normal routines and spread the virus far and wide, triggering an increase in deaths. And if some patients may spread the virus when they have mild or no symptoms at all, as Chinese officials have asserted, that would undercut efforts to halt transmission.


China virus toll 136; Over 6,000 cases reported

BEIJING, Jan 29: The deadly novel coronavirus has so far spread to at least 18 countries, including Germany, Australia and the United States. China has reported an increase in fatalities and infections as the virus has claimed over 136 lives, with the number of cases soaring overnight.

Nearly 6056 cases have been reported in 18 countries and territories. Chinese authorities said the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak.

Governments, global companies and international health organizations rushed to contain the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. As containment efforts intensify, the likelihood of the virus disrupting global businesses and the world’s second-largest economy appears to be growing.

Anxiety is growing amid evidence that the disease has an incubation period of as long as two weeks before those infected start to show signs of the illness. That raises the possibility that people who are carrying the virus but don’t show symptoms could infect others.

The World Health Organization will meet on Thursday to consider declaring the coronavirus outbreak in China a global public health emergency, a senior official at the multilateral body said during a press conference broadcast online.

“The WHO will reconvene an emergency meeting tomorrow. We are at an important juncture in the event. The disease is still spreading. The meeting will consider declaring a global public health emergency meeting in Geneva," Michael J. Ryan, executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said during the press briefing.

Governments should decide on any evacuations from virus zones, says WHO

It is for governments to decide whether to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and senior Chinese officials discussed measures at talks in Beijing this week, including possible alternatives to evacuation of foreigners "if there are ways to accommodate them and protect their health", said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

"If countries want to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan, WHO’s position is that this is a matter for their governments to decide," Jasarevic said.

China Coronavirus death toll jumps to 106, nearly 1,300 new cases

WUHAN, Jan 28: The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China has soared to 106 while nearly 1,300 new cases have been confirmed, authorities said Tuesday.

The health commission in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, said 24 more people had died from the virus and 1,291 more people were infected, raising the total number of confirmed cases to more than 4,000 nationwide.

3 isolated in Delhi over coronavirus suspicion

BEIJING/ NEW DELHI, Jan 27: Authorities in Delhi isolated on Monday three people at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital with flu-like symptoms after they returned from China, the first time anyone has been quarantined in India’s national capital over the coronavirus outbreak that has infected nearly 3,000 people across the world in less than a month.

A confirmed coronavirus case is yet to be discovered in India but a series of similar hospitalisations in four cities – Kolkata, Jaipur, Chandigarh and Patna – as well as the death of a Thai national in West Bengal’s capital on Monday raised fears of the pathogen having arrived on Indian soil.

The outbreak has expanded alarmingly since it began less than a month ago in China, where at least 4,000 people have now been infected and 106 have died, officials said on Monday. The infections were at 2,000 and fatalities at 56 a mere 24 hours before that. Outside the country, infections have been confirmed in 11 countries, taking the total number of sick to at least 4,000.

“Three people with suspected coronavirus were brought to the hospital today. They had shown no symptoms after they came back from China and were living with their families in Delhi-NCR. They were brought to the hospital after they started showing some respiratory symptoms,” said Dr Minakshi Bhardwaj, medical superintendent of RML hospital, which has been designated as the main facility in the city to deal with such cases.

Two of these patients arrived in the last week, while the third had returned from China nearly a month ago.

In Kolkata, a Chinese tourist was admitted to the isolation ward of a government hospital while another woman – a citizen of Thailand – died after developing a respiratory illness. Thailand accounts for the highest number of reported infections outside of China.

A patient each were also isolated in Jaipur, Chandigarh and Patna, with all three being Indian citizens who returned from China recently and now have symptoms such as fever.

Samples from all of the patients have been sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) for testing and results were awaited.

So far, NIV-Pune has received 17 samples from across India. Of these, 14 have been tested and none was positive.

The virus, titled the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV), is believed to have infected the first human in late December in the central China city of Wuhan. The city and at least 17 others like it are now under a near-total lockdown, stranding millions of people – including approximately 200 Indians.

On Monday, chief ministers of two states, Kerala and Gujarat, appealed to the Union government to airlift Indian nationals stranded in Chinese cities. The Union cabinet secretary also held a meeting of top bureaucrats from several ministries on Monday, according to officials who asked not to be named, and asked for preparations to start for possible evacuations soon.

In Beijing, Chinese officials briefed a group of diplomats – including from India – about efforts to contain the virus and discussed possible evacuations of foreign citizens.

“Various options for evacuating foreign nationals from Wuhan/Hubei province were also discussed. We continue to engage with the Chinese authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian nationals in Hubei province. We will update you when we have more information from the Chinese authorities,” said a message from the Indian embassy in China sent to Indian residents who remain in Wuhan.

According to a new assessment of the outbreak by researchers from China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Guangdong, the pandemic risk appears to be higher than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak – which, too, began from China before it killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.

The average incubation period, the report added, was 4.8 days – which means people could be infected during this period, and possibly be infecting others, before they show the first signs of the disease.

On Sunday, another group of Chinese health officials said the pathogen’s ability to spread was becoming stronger – a claim that was backed up by the Guangdong CDC, which said each infected person was, on an average, passing it on to nearly three other people.

To be sure, the fatality ratio – the number of deaths for every infection – will determine whether the virus is deadlier than the SARS virus, which, too, belonged to the coronavirus family and manifested in similar flu-like symptoms.

The Lunar New Year period, when millions travel outside of China, the ability of the virus to spread while patients are asymptomatic, and symptoms that can easily be mistaken as a case of the common cold make containing the outbreak a difficult task.

India has joined most other countries in screening airline passengers from flights originating in Chinese cities. In the two weeks since the screening began, 33,552 people in 155 flights have been checked for signs that they may be infected.

China virus death toll rises to 56; US, Japan prepare evacuation

BEIJING, Jan 26: The novel coronavirus spread further and became more deadly as Canada confirmed its first case and China reported an increase in fatalities and infections.

The virus has killed at least 56 people in China, and President Xi Jinping on Saturday ordered a faster response, sending teams into hard-hit areas to push local officials to strengthen prevention and containment.

More than 2,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries and territories. South Korea on Sunday reported another infection, while Pakistan denied it has a confirmed case.

China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said on Sunday the transmission ability of the coronavirus behind an outbreak that has killed 56 people so far is getting stronger and that the number of infections could continue to rise.

Ma, speaking at a press briefing, also said authorities' knowledge of the new virus is limited and that they are unclear on the risks posed by mutations of the virus.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the agency is advising that the Lunar New Year holiday ending Jan. 30 be extended due to the virus. The decision will depend on how the situation develops, he said.

Beijing will lengthen the winter break for schools from kindergarten to college, People’s Daily reported, citing the city’s education bureau.

A Hong Kong health official confirmed the sixth case of the coronavirus in the city.

The South China Morning Post earlier reported that the man had been to Wuhan and arrived in Hong Kong by high-speed rail. He will undergo more tests. It was not known when he returned from China, the newspaper said.

Government plans to use a newly built, unoccupied public estate in the New Territories district of Fanling for possible patients under quarantine and medical staff drew an angry response from residents and district councillors.

A couple dozen masked people barricaded a road in Fanling in protest at the government proposal to use Fai Ming Estate as an emergency medical facility. Some of the protesters said the building is too close to their homes, while others complained that approved applicants would lose their flats in the estate.

Thailand’s director of communicable diseases said at a coronavirus meeting that the nation has eight confirmed cases of the illness. Those infected all came from outside the country, and there has been no local transmission so far.

California reported its first confirmed case, according to a statement from the Orange County Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division. The person, who traveled from Wuhan, is in isolation in a local hospital and in good condition, it said.

China banned the shipping and sale of wild animals starting Sunday and said it will quarantine breeding sites. Trade will be forbidden in markets, supermarkets, restaurants and online, the market supervision administration, agricultural ministry and forestry bureau said in a statement.

It also warned people against consuming wild animals. The new coronavirus was first found in people who shopped or worked at a so-called wet market in the central city of Wuhan, where live animals were sold.

China has tightened controls on the sale of exotic animals, considered nourishing in some parts of the country, though some are still sold surreptitiously.

A clinical trial is underway using anti-HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir to treat cases of the new coronavirus, according to an article published in the Lancet medical journal Friday. Beijing’s municipal health commission said on Sunday the drugs made by AbbVie Inc. are part of the National Health Commission’s latest treatment plan, and its hospitals have supplies of the medicine if needed.

On Sunday, China’s Global Times tweeted that the nation’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention will start developing a vaccine.

The US government is making plans for its Wuhan consulate to arrange a charter flight to evacuate its citizens on Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday the government was working with Chinese authorities to arrange a charter flight for any Japanese nationals who wish to return from Wuhan.

A 62-year-old doctor who died from the virus on Saturday in Hubei province contracted the virus from another elderly member of his choir, and was not on the front line as some media had reported, according to a person familiar with the situation. He was retired but had been rehired on a part-time basis by another hospital, the person said.

Shantou, a city of about 5.6 million in Guangzhou province that’s about 14 hours drive from Wuhan, will ban cars, ships and people from entering from Jan. 27, the Global Times reported.

Malaysian police detained a family of three from China at an airport for dodging quarantine, the Star reported. The toddler was suspected of being infected with the virus but parents of the child ignored hospital orders and said they had to catch a flight back to China, the report said.

Malaysia has four confirmed cases, and so does neighboring Singapore.

Hong Kong theme parks including Disneyland and Ocean Park said they will be closed until further notice after the government stepped up prevention measures to curb the spread of the virus. Hong Kong on Saturday raised its response level to the coronavirus to “emergency" and said it will cancel its largest marathon scheduled to take place early next month.

A man was fined NT$300,000 ($10,000) after he failed to report symptoms of a respiratory infection after traveling to Wuhan, the official Central News Agency reported, citing health authorities. He visited a nightclub without wearing a face mask the day after he returned to Taiwan, and a female employee later developed symptoms including a cough, according to the report. She has since been quarantined.

A top Pakistan health official said there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country after reports on Saturday of an infection.

A patient kept in isolation in a hospital is improving and has no signs of a severe acute respiratory infection, State Minister of Health Zafar Mirza said in a post on Twitter on Saturday. He was earlier reported as saying that Pakistan “lacks the facility" to detect the virus.

Canada reported its first coronavirus case, a man in his 50s who fell ill in Toronto days after returning from China, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said Saturday.

The man arrived from Wuhan via Guangzhou on Jan. 22 and went into a hospital the following day after feeling ill. On Saturday, the province’s public health lab confirmed the case as a presumptive positive case. Williams said Toronto public health authorities are in touch with federal officials to help determine the exposure to other individuals on the flights.

The UK has advised against travel to China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the global outbreak, and is urging British citizens in the area to get out if they are able.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said citizens should comply with any additional screening measures set up by local Chinese authorities. The U.K. has since Jan. 22 monitored flights arriving in the country from Wuhan, and has providing screening where needed, the government said.

France, which has the only confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, will send a “medical welcoming team" to airports including Charles de Gaulle near Paris on Sunday to treat any passengers showing symptoms of the illness.

Airlines flying into France’s main international hub also were asked to distribute specific information to travelers before they land, said Jerome Salomon, the government’s director general for health.

Salomon said the three French patients infected with the virus are in “very good" condition.

One French company, Groupe PSA, will repatriate 38 people from the Wuhan area, according to a spokesman. Chinese authorities and the French general consulate are helping the company with the initiative.

The China Development Bank approved an emergency loan of 2 billion yuan ($289 million) for Wuhan to prevent and control the coronavirus outbreak.

The loan will be used for medical assistance, emergency equipment, work expenses and other needs tied to disease treatment and epidemic prevention and control, according to a statement.

China banned all outgoing overseas group tours starting on Jan. 27, and suspended domestic group tours as of Jan. 24, CCTV reported. Beijing also will prohibit buses from entering and leaving the city from Jan. 26.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism had ordered travel agencies and tourism companies to stop selling tour packages, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The ban coincides with the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, when millions of Chinese travel across the country and abroad.

26 killed, 900 infected as China shuts 13 cities; Locks down 41 million people

BEIJING, Jan 24: China announced Friday it will close a section of the Great Wall and other famous Beijing landmarks to control the spread of a deadly virus that has infected hundreds of people across the country.

The Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda will also be closed from Saturday, the authority that oversees the sites said, while the Bird’s Nest stadium closed Friday, in order to “prevent and control” the spread of the virus.

China also added four more cities to a transport ban around the epicentre of a deadly virus, restricting the movement of some 41 million people in 13 cities as authorities scramble to control the disease.

Officials in Xianning, Xiaogan, Enshi and Zhijiang cities -- all located in central Hubei province where the virus first emerged -- said public transport services including buses and train stations would be closed.

The cities are the latest in Hubei to impose travel restrictions over the previous 24 hours in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus which has infected more than 900 people.

The virus first emerged from the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where a seafood and live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak.

It has killed 26 people so far, and has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

SARS killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Zhijiang, a city of 550,000, announced the closure of all businesses with exceptions like pharmacies, while Enshi, with a population of 800,000, has shut all entertainment venues.

Earlier on Friday Jingzhou city, with a population of 6.4 million, said all services departing from its railway station will be suspended.

Huangshi, which has a population of 2.4 million, shut transport routes Friday as well as closing a ferry terminal and bridge over the Yangtze River and suspending public transport.

The move followed the suspension of long-distance passenger buses, tourist coaches and public transport from Thursday night in Qianjiang, a city in central Hubei with nearly a million people.

Trains and planes were halted from leaving Wuhan on Thursday as the city was placed under effective lockdown. Passenger boats and buses were also forbidden from entering the city.

The virus has hit China in the midst of its Lunar New Year holiday, typically marked by family gatherings and public celebrations.

Other cities to impose travel restrictions include Xiantao, a city of 1.5 million, and Chibi, which has some 500,000 people, which closed toll station entrances and halted transport routes.

The cities of Ezhou, Huanggang and Lichuan also introduced measures.

Authorities in Hubei also said they were calling off cultural performances at public venues.

Taxi services also will be restricted and travel agencies in the province have suspended business activities and are no longer organising tour groups, authorities said in an announcement on Friday.

China shuts down more cities in bid to contain deadly virus

BEIJING, Jan 23: China decided Thursday to lock down three cities that are home to more than 18 million people in an unprecedented effort to try to contain a deadly new viral illness that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded Wuhan's train station, where metal barriers blocked the entrances at 10 a.m. sharp. Only travelers holding tickets for the last trains were allowed to enter, with those booked for later trains being turned away.

Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in the city of 11 million people were eerily quiet. In addition to the train station, airport, ferry, subway and bus services were also halted.

Similar measures will take effect from Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou. Theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment centers were also ordered closed, further increasing the economic costs of the response to the outbreak.

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science," said Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's representative in China. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work."

The illnesses from a newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in central China's Hubei province. The vast majority of mainland China's 571 cases have been in the city.

Other cases have been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. One case was confirmed Thursday in Hong Kong after one was earlier confirmed in Macao. Most cases outside China were people from Wuhan or who had recently traveled there.

A total of 17 people have died, all of them in and around Wuhan. Their average age was 73, with the oldest 89 and the youngest 48.

Images obtained from inside Wuhan following the closure showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as residents stocked up for what could be weeks of relative isolation. That appeared to be an over-reaction, since no restrictions have been placed on trucks carrying supplies into the city, although many Chinese still have strong memories of shortages and privations in the years before the country's recent economic boom.

Such sweeping measures are typical of China's authoritarian communist government, although their effectiveness in containing the outbreak remains uncertain.

Local authorities in Wuhan have demanded all residents wear masks in public places and urged government staff to wear them at work and for shopkeepers to post signs for their visitors, Xinhua news agency quoted a government notice as saying.

Xinhua cited the city's anti-virus task force as saying the measures were taken in an attempt to “effectively cut off the virus spread, resolutely curb the outbreak and guarantee the people's health and safety."

Liu Haihan left Wuhan last Friday after visiting her boyfriend there. She said everything was normal then, before human-to-human transmission of the virus was confirmed. But things have changed rapidly.

“(My boyfriend) didn't sleep much yesterday. He disinfected his house and stocked up on instant noodles," Liu said. “He's not really going out. If he does he wears a mask."

The significant increase in illnesses reported just this week come as millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year, one of the world's largest annual migrations of people. Chinese are expected to take an estimated 3 billion trips during the 40-day spike in travel.

While state broadcaster CCTV has largely ignored the outbreak to emphasize traditional observances of the festival, reports have filtered in of events such as temple fairs being canceled in cities including Beijing.

Analysts have predicted the reported cases will continue to multiply.

“Even if (the number of cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us," the WHO's Galea said, adding, however, that the number of cases is not an indicator of the outbreak's severity, so long as the mortality rate remains low.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, which developed from camels.

China is keen to avoid repeating mistakes with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the illness had spread around the world, China parked patients in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts.

In the current outbreak, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that as a priority.

“Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must put people's lives and health first," Xi said Monday. “It is necessary to release epidemic information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation."

Health authorities were taking extraordinary measures to prevent additional person-to-person transmissions, placing those suspected to be infected in plastic tubes and wheeled boxes where air passed through filters.

The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for an investigation. Experts suspect the virus was first transmitted from wild animals but the virus also may be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious.

WHO plans another meeting of scientific experts Thursday on whether to recommend declaring the outbreak a global health emergency, which it defines as an “extraordinary event" that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Many countries are screening travelers from China for illness, especially those arriving from Wuhan. North Korea has banned foreign tourists, a step it also took during the SARS outbreak and in recent years due to Ebola. Most foreigners going to North Korea are Chinese or travel there through neighboring China.

China’s fast-spreading virus kills 6, reaches 5 countries including Australia

BEIJING, Jan 21: China on Tuesday tightened control on people exiting and entering Wuhan the central Chinese city at the core of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, which has killed six people, infected 300 and spread panic and anxiety ahead of the country’s biggest festival, the Lunar New Year (LNY).

As many as 300 people have been infected, health authorities said Tuesday, adding that two more people died in Wuhan in the past 24 hours, pushing the toll up to six.

Two cases were confirmed in Tianjin, a city neighbouring Beijing, and another 5 in the city of Chongqing, a megapolis of 30 million people.

Reports in the last 24 hours said the virus had spread across China. There are at least seven reported cases of the virus reaching Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia.

Authorities are now attempting to isolate the previously unknown virus in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province and a transport and education hub.

The Wuhan municipal health commission has said local tourist groups had been banned from traveling outside of the city and vehicles entering and leaving will be subject to spot checks.

Local authorities will continue to exercise control over entry and exit into Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the suspected source of the novel coronavirus.

“Thirty-five stationary infrared thermometers and over 300 hand-held ones have been used to screen passengers with fevers at various transport terminals in Wuhan, including the airport, railway stations, bus stations and passenger piers,” official news agency Xinhua reported.

It added: “Passengers with fevers will be registered, provided masks and brochures about pneumonia and advised to see doctors. Ticket cancellations and changing will be free of charge for them, according to the municipal government”.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it wasn’t a complete ban on exiting or entering Wuhan city.

“What I just said is that at present, the local government in Wuhan has strengthened the control over the personnel entering and leaving Wuhan. I understand that some inspections are carried out when they leave and enter Wuhan, and there is not a complete ban on entry and exit,” ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, said Tuesday.

For Wuhan residents, this Lunar New Year will be a muted if not a dark one as celebrations to mark the new year eve on January 24, which attracts huge crowds, have been cancelled.

Questions are being raised whether the right steps were taken by the government – even by the state media.



India Drops to 102 In The Global Hunger Index 2019, Lowest In South Asia

18 killed in vaping-linked lung injury in US, over 1000 sick

Despite progress in childbirth safety, one woman or baby dies every 11 seconds



Aviation | Business | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Communication | Health | India | United Nations
India-US | India-France | Entertainment | Sports | Photo Gallery | Tourism | Advertise with Us | Contact Us

Best viewed at 800 x 600 resolution with IE 4.0 or higher
© Noyanika International, 2003-2009. All rights reserved.