Coronavirus: Latest Updates (Jan. 16-31)
For daily updated figures on infections, deaths, and suspected cases in China and abroad, see Sixth Tone’s digital infographic here.
Jan. 31, 2020
At least 43 people in China died of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the overall death toll to 213, according to official data.
As of 11 a.m. Friday, there had been over 9,700 confirmed cases, with some 1,500 of them “severe,” the National Health Commission said. There are currently over 15,000 suspected coronavirus cases in the country.
Around 170 people have fully recovered after becoming infected, according to the commission. Health authorities have identified 113,579 close contacts of people infected with the virus and placed 102,427 of them under medical observation.
Outside the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have reported 28 cases in total. With new cases reported in Italy, the Philippines, and India, there are now at least 100 confirmed cases in 19 countries other than China.
The World Health Organization has finally determined that the novel coronavirus first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a press conference following an emergency meeting Thursday.
The WHO said that as of Friday, 18 countries other than China had confirmed 98 coronavirus cases, which the organization has provisionally named “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease.” At least eight of these cases — in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States — are believed to have been transmitted between humans.
“Let me be clear: this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” the WHO chief said, adding that the organization “does not recommend any travel or trade restriction (involving China) based on the current information available.”
There are currently over 9,700 confirmed novel coronavirus infections in China, with 213 deaths. A majority of the deaths have occurred in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
Patients who have fully recovered after being infected with the novel coronavirus should still take preventive measures to avoid the risk of reinfection, according to a leading respiratory specialist.
“Generally, fully recovered patients can still have antibodies to protect themselves, but some antibodies might not stick around long enough to stop the patient from being infected again,” Zhan Qingyuan said Friday at a press conference organized by the National Health Commission.
The doctor from the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing suggested that all recovered patients should receive regular follow-up consultations to monitor both their physical and mental health.
“If necessary, we suggest that they to go to a psychological clinic, as some patients might develop depression,” he added.
As of Friday morning, 177 people in China had fully recovered from the novel coronavirus, while 213 have been killed and over 9,700 infected.
The United States has raised its China travel advisory to Level 4, advising citizens not to travel to China, which is currently trying to contain a novel coronavirus epidemic that has killed hundreds and infected thousands.
“Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice,” the U.S. State Department said Thursday. “Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means.”
Several airlines including a few U.S. carriers suspended or reduced their flights to China this week. A chartered plane carrying 195 Americans, including diplomats and their families, left Wuhan and landed in the United States early Wednesday morning local time.
As of Friday, the U.S. had confirmed six patients infected with the novel coronavirus, including at least one case of human-to-human transmission.
At a White House event Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had spoken to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the coronavirus epidemic. “We’re very much involved with them right now on the virus that’s going around,” Trump said. “We’re working very closely with China.”
A supervisory team from Beijing urged Huanggang authorities to accelerate the examination of suspected coronavirus cases as well as ensure that suspected and confirmed cases remain segregated.
Huanggang now has the second most coronavirus cases of any Chinese city after Wuhan. As of Thursday, 12 deaths and 573 infections had been confirmed in Huanggang, according to Hubei’s health commission.
Public security organs in the provincial-level regions of Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Jiangxi have busted at least seven cases of companies manufacturing and selling fake face masks amid the novel coronavirus epidemic, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Thursday.
Police have apprehended 20 suspects and seized more than 380,000 counterfeit masks, according to the report.
On Monday, the Alibaba-owned marketplace Taobao announced it had removed over 80 shops suspected of selling fake 3M and N95 masks from its platform.
China’s Ministry of Public Security said Thursday that public security bureaus nationwide had investigated 515 cases involving public disturbances and interfering with epidemic prevention and control, among other related offences.
Jan. 30, 2020
Weng Qiuqiu never learned what killed her.
The disease moved fast. Over the course of just 12 days, the 32-year-old resident of Huanggang City in China’s central Hubei province went from complaining of a headache and cough to being diagnosed with an “unknown” type of pneumonia and put on a respirator, says her husband Chen Yong.
Finally, on Jan. 21, 2020, after burning through 200,000 yuan ($29,000) in less than two weeks — the totality of their life’s savings plus everything they could raise from family, friends, and a crowdsourcing campaign — and with no sign of improvement, Chen agreed to take his wife off life support.
Authorities in Hubei province, where China’s novel coronavirus infections are most concentrated, have warned of severe repercussions against anyone caught endangering the personal safety of medical workers or civilians.
In a statement Wednesday, the central province’s public security department said that it is forbidden to disturb the normal operations of a medical institution, endanger medical workers’ personal safety, or damage hospital property, under threat of criminal punishment.
The statement further said that novel coronavirus carriers who spit at other people to intentionally spread the disease, as well as those who are infected or suspected of being infected but refuse to be quarantined, may bear criminal responsibility.
In the past week, Chinese media have exposed several instances of coronavirus patients or their family members behaving abominably toward medical workers.
Chinese airlines should not bar Wuhan passengers who pass health checks from boarding, China’s aviation authority announced Thursday.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said it had granted approval for airlines to arrange chartered flights to Wuhan from overseas, just over a week after all flights to and from the city were canceled to contain the novel coronavirus that originated at a local wet market.
One chartered flight from Singapore landed at Wuhan’s airport Thursday morning with over 200 of the city’s residents aboard. According to the CAAC, other Wuhan residents who had been in Thailand, Myanmar, and Japan have also returned to the central Chinese city.
Umetrip, a flight-tracking app developed by a state-owned company with access to CAAC’s passenger data, on Thursday introduced a new push notification feature that sends an alert to air travelers if any of their fellow passengers test positive for the novel coronavirus.
When Wuhan was put on lockdown on Jan. 23, around 4,000 residents of the city became stranded overseas. Though Wuhan’s tourism bureau appealed to tour operators to help them return home, some airlines have faced resistance from passengers. On Monday, a China Southern flight from Nagoya, Japan to Shanghai was delayed five hours after over 70 passengers refused to board alongside 19 people from Wuhan.
“Our common enemy should be the disease, not the people of Wuhan,” a local official said at the National Health Commission’s press conference Wednesday. “Under the current severe situation for controlling potentially infectious sources, everyone should behave rationally.”
As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the novel coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan had killed 170 people and infected over 7,700 others in China, according to official data.
Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, confirmed its first case on Thursday, a day after launching a Level 1 emergency response to the virus, as Shanghai and Beijing did last week. The virus has now been detected in every provincial-level administrative region of the Chinese mainland.
A supervisory team sent by Beijing urged Hubei authorities to further strengthen screenings of respiratory ailments that may be caused by the novel coronavirus. The supervisors have also ordered local authorities to improve, optimize, and speed up the detection process.
Currently, there are 12,167 suspected coronavirus cases on the Chinese mainland, and 128 patients have made full recoveries, the National Health Commission said.
Beyond the mainland, a total of 25 cases have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. There are also around 80 confirmed cases globally, including in Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Germany, Cambodia, Canada, Malaysia, France, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
Several international airlines have suspended flights to and from China, with the novel coronavirus having spread to over a dozen countries abroad.
Air Canada announced Wednesday that it would suspend direct flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai from Jan. 30 to Feb. 29, in line with the Canadian government's recommendation to avoid nonessential travel to China. Also on Wednesday, British Airways announced that it would suspend direct flights to and from the Chinese mainland for the rest of January and February.
German carrier Lufthansa, as well as its Swiss and Austrian subsidiaries, has also suspended flights to China amid the ongoing epidemic.
United Airlines became the first major airline to limit air travel due to the coronavirus when it announced Tuesday that 24 of its flights between China and the United States would be suspended for the first week of February.
Three of the 206 Japanese citizens who were on a chartered flight out of Wuhan on Wednesday are confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, Japan’s state broadcaster reported, citing the country’s health ministry.
Two of the three tested positive for the virus even though they hadn’t shown symptoms, while the third person complained of a sore throat and later developed a fever, according to Japanese media.
A separate chartered plane carrying 195 Americans, including diplomats and their families, left Wuhan and landed in the United States early Wednesday morning local time. The passengers will be kept under medical observation at a military base in Southern California for three days.
Other countries including Canada, France, South Korea, Italy, and India are reportedly also making arrangements to bring their citizens home from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Jan. 29, 2020
As of noon Wednesday, the novel coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan had killed 132 people in China and infected nearly 6,000 others, according to official data. Meanwhile, there are over 9,200 suspected cases in the country, including the first possible case in Tibet, the National Health Commission said.
A total of 105 people have fully recovered after becoming infected, according to the commission. Some 65,500 close contacts have been identified, with around 60,000 under medical observation.
Outside of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have reported seven or eight cases each. Infections have also been confirmed in Sri Lanka, Germany, Cambodia, Canada, Malaysia, France, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday that the current prevention and control measures are working and the number of suspected cases is decreasing. He said he expects the situation to improve by the Lantern Festival holiday on Feb. 8.
“Based on the current measures, I am optimistic — but everyone must follow the prevention and control measures,” he said. “If everyone can catch up with these measures, (cases of) the virus will go down.”
On Tuesday, United Airlines announced that it would suspend 24 China-U.S. flights for the first week of February amid a “significant decline in demand” caused by the novel coronavirus.
United is the first U.S. airline to take such measures. Flights from several major U.S. airports to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong will be affected.
United operates an average of 12 flights between the U.S. and China each day. The company said it will continue to monitor the epidemic and adjust its schedule as needed.
More flight cancellations could follow. U.S. government sources told national broadcaster ABC News that the White House has not ruled out canceling all flights between the U.S. and China. The White House on Tuesday told executives at several U.S. airlines to consider suspending all flights between the two countries because of the coronavirus, the outlet said, citing an airline source.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised their travel advisory to China to the highest warning level, urging citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the country. Since Jan. 21, five novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States.
With the novel coronavirus infecting thousands of people in China and growing numbers abroad, many provincial-level regions are appointing teams of doctors and scientists to manage emergency relief efforts and localized cases.
Zhang Wenhong, a leading infectious disease expert at the Fudan University-affiliated Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, has been tasked with leading such a team in the eastern megacity.
Addressing media on Wednesday, Zhang spoke about the novel coronavirus’ uncanny virulence, why containment efforts outside Hubei are so important, the role of “psychological intervention” in preventing panic, and why people shouldn’t necessarily freak out as the number of confirmed infections grows.
Zhang also outlined several outcome scenarios for the epidemic — some more desirable than others.
Two pop-up hospitals being built at lightning speed to cope with the coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan will be expanded to house more patients and medical staff, domestic media reported Wednesday.
According to a blueprint of Huoshenshan Hospital released Tuesday, the facility will be expanded from 25,000 square meters to 33,900 square meters — nearly the size of five soccer fields — with a total capacity of 1,000 beds. When completed, Huoshenshan will have patient wards, intensive care units, supply rooms, a medical technology department, a temporary waste storage room, and an ambulance decontamination room, among other facilities.
Wuhan authorities had announced Saturday that the city would build a second temporary medical site, the 1,300-bed Leishenshan Hospital, by Feb. 5. Located 50 kilometers southeast of Huoshenshan, Leishenshan is also being expanded to about 60,000 square meters. Its patient capacity will be increased to around 1,600 beds, while its on-site accommodation area will house more than 2,000 medical staff.
China’s National Medical Products Administration approved two new 2019-nCoV nucleic acid test kit products Tuesday under an accelerated approval program instituted under the epidemic. The NMPA had already approved four such products from four separate enterprises.
Ni Weiqin, the deputy general manager of Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech Co. Ltd., which manufactured one of the just-approved products, said that the first batch of test kits can serve 200,000 people, and the company plans to make enough test kits to accommodate 1 million people in total.
Jan. 28, 2020
Zhong Nanshan, the renowned scientist who helped expose the scale and severity of SARS, believes the novel coronavirus epidemic is likely to reach its peak in “a week or 10 days.”
In an interview with the state-run Xinhua News Agency, Zhong — who has been tasked with leading China’s efforts to bring the virus under control — said the total number of infections should steadily decline after the coming peak.
“An observation period of between 10 and 14 days is ideal,” the scientist said. “Once the incubation period has elapsed, those who haven’t developed symptoms should be safe, so there won’t be a major infection period after the Spring Festival break, when many people will be returning to the places they work.”
Zhong, who made headlines a week ago by saying the coronavirus was “definitely” transmissible between humans, told Xinhua that, while there is currently no effective medicine for treating the virus, he nonetheless expects its mortality rate to “definitely drop.”
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the novel coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan had killed 106 people in China and infected over 4,500 more, according to the country’s National Health Commission. The statement said there are a further 6,973 suspected cases in the country.
Twenty-two people in Wuhan died Monday and 892 new cases were confirmed the same day. The city’s mayor had said during a press conference the previous day that the number of infections in the city is likely to rise by another 1,000 or so.
A total of 60 people have fully recovered after becoming infected, according to official data. On Tuesday, national health authorities said that 11 of the 15 medical staff who had become infected while working at a Wuhan hospital now test negative for the virus, with three being discharged.
Outside of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have each confirmed between five and eight cases. Sri Lanka, Germany, and Cambodia, meanwhile, confirmed their first coronavirus cases on Monday, joining Canada, Malaysia, France, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have raised their travel advisory to China to the highest warning level, urging citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the country. Previously, the organization had issued the highest-level warning only for Hubei province, where the virus originated and infections are most concentrated.
Since Jan. 21, five novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States. China’s immigration authority has also suggested that mainland residents reconsider or adjust their travel plans to minimize potential health risks to others.
The World Health Organization on Sunday adjusted its assessment of the global epidemic risk of the novel coronavirus to “high,” admitting that it had assessed “incorrectly” in previous reports stating that the virus posed only a “moderate” global health risk.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, is currently in China to meet with officials and health experts about the epidemic.
“Building on experience and systems already in place for related pathogens, WHO has activated global networks of experts, quickly developed advice for countries everywhere, and is working with them to active their response systems,” he wrote on Twitter.
Thirteen medical teams consisting of around 1,800 medical workers are scheduled to arrive in Wuhan on Tuesday to treat coronavirus patients, according to a Chinese health official.
“Since the first medical teams set out from Shanghai and Guangdong on Jan. 24 to assist with treatment work in the affected areas … nearly 6,000 medical workers will have gathered in Hubei province by the end of the day,” Jiao Yahui, deputy chief of medical administration and supervision at the National Health Commission, said at a press conference Tuesday.
Jiao added that the medical workers — who will be staying at hotels near designated hospitals — were asked to bring their own protective equipment due to a shortage of such supplies in areas affected by the virus.
In response to widespread concerns about hospitals not having the resources to admit people who think they might have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, a Chinese health official said Tuesday that the issue is being addressed.
“The first two hospitals in Wuhan designated for treating novel coronavirus patients provide 600 beds,” Jiao Yahui, deputy chief of medical administration and supervision at the National Health Commission, said at a press conference. “Although the city launched a so-called 10+10 initiative — meaning skilled medical workers from 10 large hospitals in Wuhan are collaborating with 10 smaller medical facilities to treat these patients — the reality of a supply shortage of protective equipment has made this difficult to implement.”
Jiao said the two hospitals currently being constructed, and slated to begin receiving patients in early February, will provide an additional 2,300 beds. “More than 10,000 hospital beds will be made available, which will be enough to accommodate suspected patients,” Jiao said.
Over 80 shops on e-commerce platform Taobao allegedly sold fake 3M and N95 face masks, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Monday.
On Monday, the Alibaba-owned marketplace wrote on its official Weibo microblog that it had checked all shops flagged by customers and removed those that it found to be engaging in false advertising or price gouging. Taobao also said it would assist customers seeking refunds.
Some customers who bought masks on the platform said they received “risk alerts” warning them of potentially unreliable products or vendors.
Jan. 27, 2020
The mayor of Wuhan is defending the city’s move to suspend transport services to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We locked down the city trying to keep the virus from spreading outside Wuhan, but this decision might mean we will be criticized for some time,” Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV on Monday afternoon. He added that he and his government are prepared to “shoulder any responsibility” for the sake of the public welfare.
“If anyone must be held responsible for the city’s lockdown, we can accept being removed from our posts,” Zhou said before admitting that, in the early stages of the outbreak, city officials had not reported information in a sufficiently timely fashion.
Since the total number of coronavirus infections began to rise steadily after remaining at 41 for nearly two weeks, Zhou has faced mounting pressure to resign. Monday’s interview is the first time Zhou has addressed his future as the city’s leader.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, the novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan had killed 80 people and infected over 2,700 others in China, according to official data. The 24 new deaths on Sunday were all in the central Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have confirmed between four and eight cases each. A newly identified case was confirmed in Canada, adding to previously confirmed cases in Malaysia, France, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
Meanwhile, 51 people in China have made full recoveries, the National Health Commission said.
Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, said during a press conference Sunday evening that the number of infections in the city is expected to rise by another 1,000 or so. He also revealed that “because of Spring Festival and the epidemic, more than 5 million people have left Wuhan, while 9 million remain in the city.”
China’s Cabinet, the State Council, announced Monday that the Lunar New Year holiday will be extended from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, beyond the standard one-week period.
The decision is intended strengthen the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus. By extending the holidays, authorities hope to reduce large gatherings where the virus might be more likely to spread.
A national disease control official said Monday that because China’s vast rural population had scant experience with SARS in 2002-2003, prevention awareness in rural communities is relatively weak.
“The outbreak of SARS mainly impacted bigger cities,” He Qinghua, deputy director of the National Health Commission’s Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said during a press conference. “The rural areas didn’t feel it so much, so people living there lack awareness about epidemics.”
He said that township-level government officials and party members have been instructed to disseminate useful information about the current outbreak.
China will mobilize family doctors, community workers, and volunteers to participate in the “blanket management” of both urban communities and rural villages to more effectively stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, according to a senior official.
“They’ll be responsible for collecting (travel- and health-related) information from each household in each residential building,” Feng Luzhao, director of the respiratory infectious disease department of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference Monday. “Special management should be carried out with people who have returned from the infected areas.”
Feng said the people working to manage health conditions in their communities are advised to wear masks and have their own temperatures checked twice daily.
The Hong Kong government announced Sunday that it will prohibit all residents from Hubei province, where the lion’s share of known coronavirus infections are concentrated, from entering the city beginning Monday.
Individuals who have traveled to the province in the past 14 days will also be barred from entering Hong Kong, city authorities said.
The decision was reportedly made to reduce the likelihood of people infected with the virus entering Hong Kong. As of Monday morning, there were eight confirmed coronavirus infections in the city.
Wuhan’s culture and tourism bureau has urged travel operators throughout the country to help the city’s residents who are stranded abroad return home.
Over 4,000 Wuhan residents are believed to be stuck overseas after the city restricted air and ground transportation Thursday to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
One of China’s largest travel companies, Trip.com, on Sunday implored global tour operators to offer free cancellations to customers who had booked travel arrangements with check-in dates through early February. The company had previously said it would allow users to cancel their bookings to Wuhan over the Lunar New Year holiday without extra fees.
The South Korean government is mulling measures for dealing with the epidemic after 500 South Korean citizens recently returned from China. It is reported that there are no confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections among the South Korean citizens still in Wuhan.
As of Monday morning, Japan and South Korea had three confirmed coronavirus cases each.
On Sunday, the governments of France and the United States had said they were planning to evacuate their citizens in Wuhan.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Monday that it would allocate $5 million in emergency funding and medical and technical expertise to assist its “partners in China.”
The funding will accelerate epidemiological work, emergency intervention measures, and pharmaceutical product research and development, the statement said.
Jan. 26, 2020
The average incubation period of the novel coronavirus is 10 days, according to the head of China’s National Health Commission. Early estimates had been closer to 14 days.
At a press conference Sunday, Ma Xiaowei said that unlike the SARS coronavirus, the novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan appears to be transmissible during its incubation period, of the time between exposure and first symptoms.
The epidemic is accelerating and likely to persist for some time, with the total number of infections expected to increase, Ma said.
As of 9:45 a.m. Sunday, the novel coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan had killed 56 people and infected Nearly 2,000 others in China, according to official data.
Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, now has over 1,000 known infections, followed by the eastern Zhejiang province and the southern Guangdong province, each with around 100 cases. Beijing and Shanghai have reported 51 and 40 infections, respectively.
Outside of the Chinese mainland, there have been two to five cases each in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. The novel coronavirus has now spread to Malaysia, France, Nepal, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
To handle the increasing number of patients, Wuhan authorities announced Saturday that the city will build a second pop-up hospital with 1,300 beds by Feb. 5. The hospital will be located 50 kilometers southeast of a 1,000-bed medical facility expected to be completed by Feb. 1.
An American official told CNN that the U.S. government will begin evacuating its citizens living in Wuhan, beginning with diplomats and their families. An estimated 1,000 Americans live in Wuhan, according to the official.
The French government has also said it will work with China to arrange for French citizens and their families in Wuhan to take buses from the city to Changsha, the capital of neighboring Hunan province. There, they will be isolated for 14 days, French consulate staff told the France 24 television network. Plans for their evacuation will be made afterward, the official said.
To limit the risk of human-to-human infection, Wuhan banned most vehicles from its downtown area beginning Sunday, local media reported. Only authorized vehicles transporting supplies, as well as other official vehicles, are permitted within the restricted areas.
Wuhan’s transport bureau has allocated a total of 310 buses and 6,000 taxis to the city’s urban districts to serve medical staff as they work to contain the virus, as well as civilians in emergencies.
All inter-provincial passenger transport entering and leaving Beijing will stop operating from Sunday, reported The Beijing News.
Online and offline travel agencies have also been ordered to suspend the operation of group tours, as well as packages bundling air travel and accommodation, according to domestic media.
While domestic tour groups have been suspended since Friday, international group tours and bundle packages will be suspended from Monday.
Jan. 25, 2020
Nineteen of China’s leading scientists have called for a crackdown on the country’s illegal wildlife trade and legislation against the consumption of wild animals, amid the novel coronavirus outbreak that is believed to have originated at a Wuhan wet market where dozens of unusual animal species were sold.
“Limiting or even prohibiting eating wildlife and related trades is not only important for ecological conservation, but also because of the great significance for controlling public health risks,” their joint statement said.
Lü Zhi, a professor of conservation biology at Peking University and a co-author of the open letter, hopes the Chinese public will become more aware that consuming wildlife is “shameful” and “risky.” She also hopes Chinese authorities will accept their responsibility to curb such practices.
“If government departments do not cooperate, our concern is useless. We cannot police it ourselves,” Lü said. “In fact, we have tried a lot of methods but ended up with nothing (to show for it) because of a lack of scrutiny and law enforcement. I hope this big disaster will attract sufficient attention and lead to more impactful results.”
A recitation paying tribute to medical staff battling the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak became the most talked-about performance of Friday’s Spring Festival Gala, China’s biggest television event aired annually on Lunar New Year’s Eve.
About an hour into the gala, six well-known TV hosts took the stage and performed a five-minute recitation called “Love Is the Bridge,” with each giving a short tribute to the frontline medical workers working to stop the spread of the virus. Unlike the other performances, which are planned and practiced months in advance, the recitation was a last-minute addition Friday afternoon.
“We are here celebrating the new year while you are there helping to carry us through these difficulties,” TV host Bai Yansong said. “We love you not only today, but every day of our lives.”
The broadcast — which also included singing, dancing, opera, magic, comedy, and martial arts — has been widely hailed as one of the most successful new year’s galas in years. By Saturday afternoon, a hashtag translating to “the only chunwan performance that wasn’t rehearsed” had been viewed over 400 million times on microblogging platform Weibo.
After Wuhan suspended its bus, subway, and ferry lines from 10 a.m. Thursday, the city’s medical staff have had difficulty commuting to their workplaces.
On Friday, the local hotel industry spontaneously organized to provide free accommodation to medical workers so they might stay closer to their hospitals.
By time of publication, 85 hotels in 11 districts had volunteered, with more expected to join.
By Saturday morning, the novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan had killed 41 people and infected at least 1,200 others on the Chinese mainland, as well as a few cases each in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Newly identified cases were also confirmed in France, Nepal, and Australia, adding to previously confirmed cases in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
A 62-year-old doctor from Hubei Xinhua Hospital in Wuhan died Saturday morning, a staff member at the hospital told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication. Liang Wudong, a retired otolaryngologist, had been admitted to the hospital on Jan. 16 with a suspected coronavirus infection that was later confirmed.
To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Shanghai’s civil affairs bureau said Saturday that the city would cancel plans to approve marriage registrations next Sunday. Earlier this month, authorities in several Chinese cities had said officials would work overtime to handle high demand for couples hoping to tie the knot on Feb. 2, 2020 — a date believed to be auspicious because the numbers form a palindrome when written out sequentially.
The civil affairs bureau further suggested that couples not rush their marriage registrations for the foreseeable future, especially on Feb. 14, one of several Valentine’s Days celebrated in China. “A happy marriage depends on the emotional basis of both the man and woman. As long as the relationship is deep, every day is a good day, and every day is unique,” the head of the bureau said.
Jan. 24, 2020
The State Council, China’s Cabinet, is soliciting information from the public concerning potential cover-ups or underreporting of infections of the novel coronavirus that has killed 26 people and infected hundreds more across the country.
In a statement Friday, the State Council said it would immediately send teams to investigate any inadequate implementation of disease control and prevention measures amid the ongoing outbreak, and that any violators would be “strictly dealt with” under the law.
Individuals are encouraged to send tips via an online platform that was designed explicitly for strengthening supervision and exposing corruption.
With the Lunar New Year holiday already on China’s doorstep, Shanghai has launched its highest-level emergency response against the novel coronavirus that had infected 20 people in the city and at least 865 in the country as of noon Friday, according to official notices. Beijing had issued its own Level 1 emergency response just 15 minutes earlier.
As China ramps up efforts to contain the spread of a deadly new coronavirus, some living just a few hundred kilometers from the epicenter of the outbreak say that a lack of test kits is making it difficult to diagnose new cases in their city.
Yu Yang and his wife traveled from Beijing to their hometown of Xiangyang, around 300 kilometers from Wuhan, and went straight to a hospital, as Yu’s wife had been feeling feverish the day before their journey. A routine blood test and CT scan showed that she had a viral infection, but Yu told Sixth Tone the hospital couldn’t confirm whether it was the new coronavirus due to a lack of test kits.
Three Shanghai-based manufacturers of novel coronavirus test kits told domestic media that they’ve been operating around the clock to meet the increasing demand. However, one manufacturer said that some of their raw materials suppliers are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, posing further challenges for domestic containment efforts.
More than 400 million Chinese people are expected to travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year. For many migrant workers who endure long hours and endless shifts throughout the year, the annual holidays are their only chance to see their families.
However, this year’s reunions for millions of people in Hubei province will be characterized by fear and heartbreak, with a growing number of cities turning into quarantine zones amid the coronavirus outbreak. Thirteen cities including Wuhan are in partial or total lockdown mode, with air and ground transportation suspended since Thursday in a bid to contain the virus.
With the country welcoming the Lunar New Year and families coming together Friday for the customary feast, it will be a somber night for many in Wuhan, as well as those with close ties to the city. They may greet their loved ones over video calls instead of hugging them in person, and may have to rely on friends as stand-ins for family far away.
“I might cry when I video chat with my parents, because this is the first time in my life that I’m spending the new year without them,” one Wuhan native told Sixth Tone.
Twenty-six people in China have died from the novel coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan. As of noon Friday, the virus had infected 865 people in over two dozen provincial-level regions.
To cope with the outbreak, Wuhan is building a special hospital covering 25,000 square meters with a capacity of 1,000 beds, local media reportedFriday. Construction is expected to be completed within six days.
Excavators began leveling the planned site in the city’s suburban Caidian District on Thursday evening, while the hospital’s design will be completed Friday. The movable-plank buildings are “fast, inexpensive, and practical,” according to media reports.
In April 2003, Beijing built the Xiaotangshan Hospital — also 25,000 square meters, and also with 1,000 beds — in seven days to treat SARS patients and help contain that epidemic. Two months after its opening, the hospital had treated one-seventh of all SARS patients in China.
On Thursday, China’s finance ministry allocated an emergency fund of 1 billion yuan ($144 million) for the prevention and control of novel coronavirus infections in Hubei province. In addition, Kuaishou, one of the country’s most popular livestreaming platforms, reportedly donated 100 million yuan to the Wuhan municipal government as it attempts to contain the outbreak.
To “strengthen the management of personnel flow and block the dissemination channels of the epidemic to the greatest extent possible,” the Hubei government also announced Thursday that travel agencies in the province will suspend business operations indefinitely, and all schools in the province will delay resuming classes after the Spring Festival holidays.
Business trips for party and government organs, enterprises, and institutions, as well as the armed forces, will be canceled within the province, the notice said. All trains, fights, and long-distance buses out of the city were suspended Thursday morning until further notice.
The World Health Organization said Thursday that it is “still too early” to consider the novel coronavirus that originated in China a global public health emergency.
“I am not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a press conference after a second emergency meeting Thursday.
“Make no mistake: This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency,” he added.
By noon Friday, the novel coronavirus had killed 26 people and infected 865 others on the Chinese mainland, as well as one or two cases each in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. There have also been confirmed cases in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.
Jan. 23, 2020
All seven Chinese films slated to premiere over the Lunar New Year holiday period delayed their release dates on Thursday. The move comes amid concerns that the deadly coronavirus originating in the central city of Wuhan is more likely to spread in crowded spaces.
Within the span of two hours, each of the seven films — including two animated features — announced online that their releases would be delayed until an unspecified later date.
The announcement for “Detective Chinatown 3” apologized for any inconvenience caused to would-be viewers, with the film saying it would cooperate with ticket sales platforms to refund prepurchased tickets.
“Everyone wishes for peace and health,” the film’s statement said. “In the face of the virus, our wills are united like a fortress. We will cooperate hand in hand, and we will overcome difficulties together.”
Following Wuhan’s travel ban, a city 80 kilometers from the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak has also suspended its train services, according to an official notice.
Trains will be out of service in the city of Ezhou from 11:20 a.m. Thursday in order to “efficiently cut off channels for spreading the virus,” the notice said.
About 30 toll stations along highways in Hubei province, where both Wuhan and Ezhou are located, have also been closed, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.
Hours after Wuhan went into lockdown mode Thursday morning to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has the entire country on edge, local authorities announced that there are enough supplies to meet the needs of the city of 14 million.
“So far, Wuhan has sufficient stores of commodities, food, and medical protective equipment,” the notice read. “Wuhan citizens should not be panicking or hoarding any commodities.”
However, the state-owned newspaper People’s Daily had said Wednesday on its Weibo microblog that cities in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, are in short supply of some medical equipment, such as masks and protective clothing. The outlet’s post was widely shared on Chinese social media but had been deleted by Thursday morning.
Demand for masks and other medical protective supplies is likely to rise in Wuhan, as the city has enforced a mandatory mask policy in public places. Local officials said Wednesday that people who amass such supplies or sell them at unreasonable prices will be strictly punished. Meanwhile, major e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD.com have assured the public that they will not allow merchants to price-gouge customers in these extraordinary circumstances.
Wuhan is under lockdown. The central Chinese city of 14 million has suspended all air and ground transportation in a bid to contain the new coronavirus that has killed 17 people and infected hundreds of others, according to an official announcement Thursday.
From 10 a.m. Thursday, the city would no longer be operating its bus, subway, ferry, and long-distance transit services until further notice, the announcement said. The city will also close its airport and high-speed rail stations.
“Residents should not leave Wuhan unless there’s a special reason,” the announcement said.
The novel coronavirus most likely came from snakes, according to a paper published Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Virology.
A team of five Chinese researchers conducted a viral RNA genome sequencing analysis and found that the novel coronavirus bears similarities to a bat coronavirus and another coronavirus of unknown origin.
They concluded, however, that snakes are the “most probable wildlife animal reservoir” based on a second analysis of the novel coronavirus’ relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) bias, with its RSCU bias resembling that of a snake over other animals.
In combination, the researchers said, the results suggest “cross‐species transmission from snake to humans.”
Following the paper’s publication, however, some Chinese scholars have questioned its methodology. Shang Zhou, an immunologist, said three criteria must be met in order to identify the intermediate host of a virus: First, the virus must be found in the presumed host; second, it must reproduce in the host; and third, it must prove to be pathogenic.
“Unfortunately, the authors of the paper did not prove any of that. Their conclusion is only based on a simple bioinformatics analysis,” Shang said, adding that it was “regrettable” that the Journal of Medical Virology had published “such a flawed paper.”
Jan. 22, 2020
At least nine people in Hubei have died from the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, the central province’s capital, according to a press conference Wednesday by the National Health Commission.
So far, at least 440 people have been infected in over a dozen provincial-level administrative regions including Hubei, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shandong, Jiangxi, Henan, Hunan, Sichuan, and Yunnan.
Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Wednesday’s press conference that the novel coronavirus is believed to have come from wild animals that were illegally sold at the South China Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
On Tuesday, the National Health Security Administration said that all coronavirus patients in the country will be covered by national health insurance, and that such individuals will be given top priority for treatment with no out-of-pocket costs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus infection in the country, as the virus continues to spread across China and other parts of the world.
The patient from Washington state had returned to the U.S. from Wuhan — the epicenter of the outbreak — on Jan. 15, according to the statement. Earlier, the U.S. had said it would start screening incoming passengers from Wuhan at international airports in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
Outside the U.S. and the Chinese mainland, novel coronavirus infections have been detected in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Jan. 21, 2020
Three more people have died in Wuhan — one death was reported Monday, plus two on Tuesday — bringing the total number of casualties from the novel coronavirus to six, the city’s mayor said. All of the deceased had underlying health conditions and were between 48 and 89 years old.
The number of confirmed infections in Wuhan alone has jumped to 258, Mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster China Central Television. The novel coronavirus has infected a total of 296 people in Wuhan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Beijing, and Shanghai.
As of Tuesday evening, 51 patients in Wuhan were said to be in “serious condition,” with 12 in “very serious condition,” according to Zhou.
Hours before health authorities in Wuhan reported a fourth death Tuesday from the novel coronavirus that has the country on edge, the head of the team tasked with managing the outbreak said there is “definitely human-to-human transmission.”
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist who helped expose the scale and severity of the SARS outbreak in 2003, confirmed Monday that some of the newly identified novel coronavirus cases in China are not linked to Wuhan, where the virus originated. So far, official reports say four people have died and 219 others have been infected, including 198 in Wuhan, 14 in Guangdong, five in Beijing, and two in Shanghai.
Jan. 20, 2020
On Monday evening, the official Xinhua News Agency said that the total number of coronavirus infections in the country had climbed to 217, including 198 in Wuhan, 14 in Guangdong, and five in Beijing. Shortly after the update, the National Health Commission confirmed the first case in Shanghai.
Jan. 19, 2020
Wuhan health authorities said Sunday morning that 17 more pneumonia-like infections had been confirmed in city, far more than the four new infections disclosed in a previous official update.
Before Thursday, the number of reported novel coronavirus cases in Wuhan had remained at 41 for nearly two weeks, ever since health authorities acknowledged the mysterious illness for the first time on Dec. 31.
Jan. 17, 2020
A 69-year-old man with underlying medical conditions has become the second casualty of a novel coronavirus that has infected dozens of people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, according to local health officials.
The city’s health commission said Thursday that the patient, who died early Wednesday morning, was also suffering from heart, kidney, and lung conditions.
Our earlier coronavirus coverage can be found here.