Most coronavirus infections are in China,
the original source of the virus, where 77,000 people have the disease and
nearly 2,600 have died. The number of new cases there is now falling.
More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and
there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported four more deaths on
February 24, raising the total there to seven.
China’s government announced a ban on the consumption of wild animals and a
crackdown on the hunting, transportation and trade of prohibited species, state
It is thought that the outbreak originated at a market in the city of Wuhan
selling wild animals.
On February 24, China reported 409 new infections, the bulk of which were in
South Korea has the largest number of confirmed cases outside China. On February 24, the Asian country reported another 231 COVID-19 infections on taking the total there to more than 830. Eight people have died.
Around 7,700 troops have been quarantined after 11 military members were
However, the biggest virus clusters have been linked to a hospital and a
religious group near the south-eastern city of Daegu.
Italy has the largest number of cases in Europe, 229, and
announced a series of drastic measures over the weekend to try to contain the
In the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, a lock-down is in place in several
small towns. For the next two weeks, 50,000 residents will not be able to leave
without special permission.
Even outside the zone, many businesses and schools have suspended
activities, and sporting events have been cancelled.
Three deaths announced on February 24 were all in Lombardy, Italian media
It is not yet clear how the virus entered the country, officials said.
February 23, Iran announced it had 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
most of them in the holy city of Qom. Twelve of those infected have died, the
highest number of deaths outside China.
On February 24, a lawmaker in Qom accused the government of covering up the
extent of the outbreak, saying there were 50 deaths in the city alone. However,
the country’s deputy health minister quickly denied the claim.
On the same day, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain reported their first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran. Officials in Bahrain said the patient infected there was a school bus driver, and several schools had been closed as a result.
Worldwide stock markets saw sharp falls because of concerns about the
economic impact of the virus.
China said it would postpone the annual meeting of the National People’s
Congress in March, to “continue the efforts” against the coronavirus.
The meeting, which approves decisions made by the Communist Party, has taken
place every year since 1978.
The proportion of infected people who die from Covid-19 appears to be
between 1% and 2%, although the WHO cautions that the mortality rate is not
On February 24, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain reported their
first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran. Officials in Bahrain
said the patient infected there was a school bus driver, and several schools
had been closed as a result.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the WHO, told reporters on February 24
that the number of new cases in recent days in Iran, Italy and South Korea was
However he added: “For the moment
we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are
not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths.
“Does this virus have pandemic potential?
Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
“The key message that should give
all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained,
indeed there are many countries that have done exactly that,” he added.
“Using the word ‘pandemic’ now
does not fit the facts but may certainly cause fear.”
However, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, said now was
the time to make “do everything you would do to prepare for a
Chinese health officials have released the first details of more than 44,000 cases of new coronavirus, Covid-19, in the largest study since the outbreak began.
Data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) finds
that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, with the sick and elderly most
The research also points to the high risk to medical staff.
On February 18, a hospital director in the city of Wuhan died from the virus.
Liu Zhiming, 51, was the director of the Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan – one of
the leading hospitals in the virus epicenter. He is one of the most senior
health officials to die so far.
Hubei, whose capital is Wuhan, is the worst affected province in China.
The report by the CCDC shows the
province’s death rate is 2.9% compared with 0.4% in the rest of the country.
The findings put the overall death
rate of the coronavirus at 2.3%.
China’s latest official figures
released on February 18 put the overall death toll at 1,868 and 72,436
Officials reported 98 new deaths and
1,886 new cases in the past day, with 93 of those deaths and 1,807 infections in
Hubei province – the epicenter of the outbreak.
According to Chinese authorities, more
than 12,000 people have recovered.
The study, published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology on
February 17, looked at more than 44,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China as
of February 11.
While the results largely confirm previous descriptions of the virus and
patterns of infection, the study includes a detailed breakdown of the 44,672
confirmed cases across all of China.
The study finds that 80.9% of infections are classified as mild, 13.8% as
severe and only 4.7% as critical. The number of deaths among those infected,
known as the fatality rate, remains low but rises among those over 80 years
Looking at the sex ratio, men are more likely to die (2.8%) than women
The research also identifies which existing illnesses put patients at risk.
It puts cardiovascular disease at number one, followed by diabetes, chronic
respiratory disease and hypertension.
Pointing out the risk to medical staff, the study says that a total of
3,019 health workers have been infected, 1,716 of which were
confirmed cases. Five had died by February 11, which was the last day of
data included in the research.
On February 13, China broadened its definition of how to diagnose people,
including “clinically diagnosed cases” which previously were counted
separate from “confirmed cases”.
Looking forward, the study finds that
“the epidemic curve of onset of symptoms”
peaked around January 23-26 before declining up to February 11.
It suggests that the downward trend in the overall
epidemic curve could mean that “isolation of whole
cities, broadcast of critical information (e.g., promoting hand
washing, mask wearing, and care seeking) with high frequency through
multiple channels, and mobilization of a multi-sector rapid
response teams is helping to curb the epidemic”.
The authors also warn that with many people returning from a long holiday,
the country “needs to prepare for the possible rebound of the epidemic”.
China’s response to the new coronavirus has seen the lockdown of Wuhan – the largest city in Hubei – and the rest of the province as well as severe travel restrictions on movements across the country.
The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
said anyone arriving from the mainland, including foreigners, would be quarantined
for 14 days from February 8, although she did not say how this would be
It is unclear where the quarantines
would take place or whether Hong Kong residents could spend the time at home.
Tens of thousands of people arrived
from the mainland on February 4.
Carrie Lam has not moved to close the border entirely, although thousands of
medical staff on February 5 entered the third day of their strike over the
issue and have threatened to escalate their action.
Hong Kong will, however, close the Ocean and Kai Tak cruise terminals.
Some 3,600 passengers and crew on the World Dream, docked at Kai Tak, are
being tested for the virus after three Chinese passengers who were on the ship
between January 19 and 24 tested positive after disembarking.
Hong Kong remains concerned about a repeat of the deadly Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, although the mortality rate of the new
virus is much lower than that of SARS, which was around 9.6%.
There have been massive queues for masks which are in short supply and are
selling at inflated prices.
Separately, the Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is asking 27,000 staff to take three weeks unpaid leave over the coming months as it deals with the impact of the outbreak.
In a public statement on January 31, Health Secretary Alex Azar said US
citizens returning from Hubei province would face 14 days of quarantine while
those returning from other parts of China would be allowed to monitor their own
condition for a similar period.
He told reporters: “Following the
World Health Organization decision, I have today declared that the coronavirus
represents a public health emergency in the United States.”
Citing the need to relieve pressure
on authorities, Alex Azar said that foreign nationals who had travelled in
China in the past two weeks would be denied entry to the US.
He added: “The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these,
and our previous, actions we are working to keep the risk low.”
Another confirmed case in the US on
January 31 – in California – brought the number there to seven. Robert
Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
said 191 people were under observation for the disease.
The US announcement came as other
countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the new virus,
On January 31, the UK confirmed its first two cases.
Estimates by the University of Hong Kong suggest the true total number of
cases could be far higher than official figures suggest. Based on mathematical
models of the outbreak, experts there say more than 75,000 people may have been
infected in the city of Wuhan alone, where the virus first emerged.
Most cases outside China involve people who have been to Wuhan. Germany,
Japan, Vietnam, the US, Thailand and South Korea have reported person-to-person
cases – patients being infected by people who had travelled to China.
Meanwhile in Wuhan, voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals
are under way.
Australia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and the UK are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.
The spread of the deadly coronavirus is
accelerating, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned, after holding a special
government meeting on the Lunar New Year public holiday.
China is facing a “grave situation” President Xi told senior
The new virus has killed at least 56 people and infected almost 2,000 since
its discovery in the city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, the US has announced that staff at the Wuhan consulate will be
evacuated on a special flight on January 28.
According to the State Department, private Americans most at risk will also
be able to board the flight to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, UK-based researchers have warned of a real possibility that China
will not be able to contain the virus.
Travel restrictions have come in place in several affected cities. From
January 26, private vehicles will be banned from central districts of Wuhan,
the source of the outbreak.
According to Chinese state newspaper the People’s
Daily, a second emergency hospital is to be built there within weeks to
handle 1,300 new patients, and will be finished in half a month. It is the
second such rapid construction project: work on another 1,000-bed hospital has
Specialist military medical teams have also been flown into Hubei province,
where Wuhan is located.
The urgency reflects concern both within China and elsewhere about the virus
which first appeared in December.
Lunar New Year celebrations for the year of the rat, which began on January
25, have been canceled in many Chinese cities.
Across mainland China, travelers are having their temperatures checked for
signs of fever, and train stations have been shut in several cities.
Hong Kong has declared the highest level of emergency and school holidays
Several other nations are each dealing with a handful of cases, with
patients being treated in isolation.
A coronavirus is a family of viruses which include the common cold.
However, this virus has never been seen before. It is called 2019-nCov, for
New viruses can become common in humans after jumping across the species
barrier from animals.
The SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] outbreak of 2003 started in
bats and transferred to the civet cat which passed it on to humans.
This new Chinese virus also causes severe acute respiratory infection.
Symptoms seem to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, lead to shortness of breath and some patients needing hospital treatment.
There is no specific cure or vaccine.
Based on early information, it is believed that only a quarter of infected
cases are “severe”, and the dead are mostly – though not exclusively
– older people, some of whom have pre-existing conditions.
The Chinese authorities suspect a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals” was the source of the outbreak.
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