Monday, 24 February, 2020

China confirms 25 deaths, 830 infected with coronavirus

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung announcing the new border measures Thursday evening Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung announcing the new border measures Thursday evening
Gustavo Carr | 24 January, 2020, 15:42

Health officials are not releasing an exact number of how many patients are being tested but said the number is less than 10.

Beijing cancels major public events including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, to close The Forbidden City.

"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 the city, told Reuters by phone.

Beijing and Hong Kong have also cancelled some major festivities to prevent large crowds gathering together, as the country prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year. South Korea and Japan both confirmed their second cases on Friday and Singapore confirmed its third.

One of the patients is an unnamed student in Texas, who came down with a respiratory issue two weeks after traveling from Wahun. The hospital is expected to be completed on February 3, according to authorities.

In Wuhan, where the lockdown began early Thursday, normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet.

Masks have been made mandatory in public in Wuhan, and images from the city showed empty shelves in shops as people stock up for what could be an extended isolation.

Train stations, the airport and subways were closed; police checked incoming vehicles but did not entirely close off roads.

Health authorities have said most fatalities have been aged between 48 and 89 and already suffered from pre-existing health conditions. "I would be very surprised if this were a snake virus", says Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina.

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Speaking at a news conference in Geneva on Thursday, the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while WHO's assessment is that the outbreak represents a "high risk" regionally and globally, it is "too early" to declare it an global health concern.

Fast food chain McDonald's has announced it will halt operations in five cities in China's Hubei province, where the new deadly coronavirus is believed to originate.

China has been praised for its response, in contrast to the SARS epidemic when it took months to report the disease and initially denied World Health Organization experts any access. Heilongjiang province in the northeast confirmed a death there but did not give details.

The chief medical officer says Canada's chances of getting a coronavirus outbreak is low as China locks down more cities in an effort to contain its spread.

Symptoms of the 2019 coronavirus have been reported to include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan, but people who visited or had personal connections to infected people were among the scattered cases counted beyond the mainland. There have been cases reported by travelers from countries outside of China, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the United States - and it sounds like authorities are extremely anxious this pneumonia-like virus can't be contained.

"At the border, the most critical opportunity is to educate the travelling public so they'll know what to do when they actually have symptoms", Dr. Tam said.

The WHO said on Thursday it was a "bit too early" to designate the outbreak a public health emergency of worldwide concern, which would require countries to step up their response. The declaration can increase resources to fight a threat but its potential to cause economic damage makes the decision politically fraught.

Hundreds of cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed in China and elsewhere since an outbreak began last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan.