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Killer Chinese coronavirus is ‘probably’ on its way to Britain

The killer Chinese coronavirus that is sweeping across Asia and has now killed 17 people may already be in Britain, health experts have admitted today – as they warn humans have ‘no immunity’ to the deadly disease.

It comes as Heathrow Airport announced it will take the extraordinary measure of separating all passengers flying into the UK from Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak – to try to stop the infection reaching British soil.  

Health chiefs have now raised the threat level in the UK and one said this morning the outbreak currently has a death rate similar to the global Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which went on to kill more than 50million people.

Leading scientists have also today warned up to 10,000 patients may have caught the SARS-like virus in Wuhan – more than double the previous estimate. 

Officially, 526 people have been diagnosed and the Hubei Provincial Government has now confirmed the death toll has almost doubled, from nine to 17. 

It emerged last night that the disease had reached the US. A man in his 30s from Washington State, who had travelled back from Wuhan, was confirmed to be the first American case.  

Patients have already been confirmed in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, and one man in Australia is being tested for the virus.  

US President Donald Trump today said America ‘has a plan’ to contain the spread of the virus, which officials have confirmed can spread between humans. 

But British experts who fear there could already be a case of the never-before-seen virus in the UK have warned screening in the UK ‘is not foolproof’. 

An American man with the new coronavirus has been identified in Washington state, CDC officials said on Wednesday, bringing the total number of countries with cases of the deadly virus to five outside of China, including the US, Thailand, Japan South Korea and Taiwan 

Officials measure temperatures of passengers on board on an Air China flight from Wuhan to Macau earlier this month

Officials measure temperatures of passengers on board on an Air China flight from Wuhan to Macau earlier this month

Coronavirus: What we know so far

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold. 

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s. 

Can it kill?

Yes. Nine people have so far died after testing positive for the virus

What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks. 

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet. 

How did it start and spread?

 Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and today the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere

Scientists are desperately trying to contain the outbreak of the virus, which scientists say may have come from bats and can cause a fever and pneumonia.

It comes as:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) is poised to declare the outbreak a public health emergency in a meeting in Geneva this afternoon
  • China’s National Health Commission has urged travellers to not visit Wuhan, which is home to 11million people
  • Experts have warned we have ‘no immunity’ to never-before-seen viruses, such as the unnamed coronavirus infection
  • Football and boxing qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympic Games will be moved from Wuhan to another location
  • China has been accused of under-reporting cases, with experts saying it has a ‘track record’ and warning the ‘true picture may be completely different’
  • Scientists say the virus may have been lurking in bats for decades but evolved to infect humans, warning that it is possible it can be passed through saliva

Cases of the virus have risen almost 10-fold in the space of a few days, with just 48 confirmed cases on January 17.

At least 20 healthcare workers have since been infected, including one leading Chinese doctor who was investigating the outbreak.

The virus outbreak has coincided with China’s Lunar New Year celebrations this weekend, when millions travel at home and abroad for holidays and family reunions.

Experts predict cases will continue to rise in the coming weeks as more information comes out about the virus.  

Professor Neil Ferguson, a biologist at Imperial College London, told a briefing in London this morning: ‘There appear to be what are called “super-spreading” events which are events where one person can infect many others, which is similar to what we [saw] from the MERS and SARS coronaviruses. 

‘Based on the numbers we’ve seen with onset dates up to 18th January we’ve updated our estimate of the number of cases in Wuhan to about 4,000 with an uncertainty range of 1,000 to 9,700.

‘All the reports I’ve read from within China, particularly Wuhan City but also other cities, [say] hospitals are now overwhelmed with suspect cases.  

‘The authorities there are trying to scale up the response as fast as possible but it is an extremely demanding situation.’

He added: ‘I think we will see a lot more information in the coming days and weeks and I suspect case numbers will continue to increase rapidly.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning announced the drastic measure at Heathrow, saying ‘we want to stay ahead of the issue so we are keeping a very close eye on it’. His announcement has since been confirmed by the Department of Health. 

Passengers wear masks during peak spring festival travel at the Hongqiao Railway Station during peak spring festival travel in Shanghai today

Passengers wear masks during peak spring festival travel at the Hongqiao Railway Station during peak spring festival travel in Shanghai today

Chinese paramilitary police officers wearing masks patrol the Hongqiao Railway Station during peak spring festival travel in Shanghai today

Chinese paramilitary police officers wearing masks patrol the Hongqiao Railway Station during peak spring festival travel in Shanghai today

Travellers wear masks in the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport today

Travellers wear masks in the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport today

THE KILLER VIRUS MAY HAVE COME FROM BATS, SCIENTISTS SAY 

The killer coronavirus sweeping across the world may have come from bats, scientists have said.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai came to the conclusion.

In a statement, the team said: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.

Tests of the virus, which has yet to be named, have revealed it targets a protein called ACE2 – just like its cousin SARS, the South China Morning Post reported.

Tracing the evolution of the virus, the team of experts found it belonged to betacoronavirus, making it structurally similar to SARS.

Authorities have pointed the blame on food markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that scientists are scrambling to contain.

Rodents and bats among other animals are slaughtered and sold in traditional ‘wet markets’, which tourists flock to see the ‘real’ side of the country.

Enhanced monitoring will be put in place for all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK, of which there are three each week that go straight into Heathrow.

As each of these flights land at an isolated area of Terminal 4, the captain of the plane will tell passengers to tell a flight attendant if they feel unwell.

These details will then be passed on to public health teams at the airport who will meet the aircraft when it lands and carry out further checks.

There are no plans to introduce blanket temperature screening of all passengers, a spokesman for the DHSC said.

But all passengers on each flight will be given a leaflet explaining how they can seek help if they become unwell while in the UK.

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, said the outbreak is a ‘new and rapidly evolving situation’.

He confirmed the risk of the virus spreading to the UK is now considered low, an upgrade to the ‘very low’ threat that the agency previously stood by.

PHE announced it was working with the WHO and other international partners and has issued advice to the NHS about how to deal with potential cases.

The Government body urged visitors to Wuhan to ‘maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and avoid visiting animal and bird markets’. 

Officials also urged travellers to steer clear of ill people with respiratory symptoms, adding Brits should seek medical help if they develop a fever. 

Thai medical staff wear protective suits transfer a 70-year-old patient, who is suspected of having coronavirus infected after traveling back from Wuhan

Thai medical staff wear protective suits transfer a 70-year-old patient, who is suspected of having coronavirus infected after traveling back from Wuhan

The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, where all six fatalities have happened

The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, where all six fatalities have happened

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION POISED TO DECLARE CORONAVIRUS AN EMERGENCY FOR ONLY SIXTH TIME EVER

2009 Swine flu epidemic 

In 2009 ‘Swine flu’ was identified for the first time in Mexico and was named because it is a similar virus to one which affects pigs. The outbreak is believed to have killed as many as 575,400 people.

2014 Poliovirus resurgence

Poliovirus began to resurface in countries where it had once been eradicated, and the WHO called for a widespread vaccination programme to stop it spreading. Cameroon, Pakistan and Syria were most at risk.  

2014  and 2019 Ebola outbreaks

Ebola killed at least 11,000 people across the world after it spread like wildfire through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014, 2015 and 2016. More than 28,000 people were infected in what was the worst ever outbreak of the disease. Almost 4,000 people were struck down with the killer virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.

2016 Zika outbreak

Zika, a tropical disease which can cause serious birth defects if it infects pregnant women, was the subject of an outbreak in Brazil’s capital, Rio de Janeiro, in 2016.  

And in hope of containing any potential outbreak, PHE said patients fearing they have the virus should phone ahead before attending any health services.

Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London, today revealed his team believe up to 10,000 patients in Wuhan may have the virus.

When asked if there could already be a case in the UK at a press briefing by the Science Media Centre, Professor Ferguson said ‘we can’t rule out the possibility’.

The same team of researchers last week stoked fears of the virus spreading when they warned up to 4,000 patients in Wuhan may be infected.

But the team has now upgraded their estimate, based on how quickly the infection has spread around China and the world.

They used flight data to make the estimate, with figures showing that 3,300 people in Wuhan fly internationally per day.

The report concludes: ‘It is likely the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan has caused substantially more cases… than have currently been detected and reported.’ 

Discussing the outbreak, Professor Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. 

‘Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum

‘But it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent. My feeling is it’s lower.

‘My own feeling is it’s probably lower, we’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.’

He added: ‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

Vaccine experts at Baylor University are working on modifying a vaccine they designed to prevent SARS to protect against the new, related coronavirus.

But the school’s Dean of Tropical Medicine, which is developing the shot, Dr Peter Hotez, told DailyMail.com that it’s likely years away from deployment.

The new coronavirus, yet to be named, causes cold-like symptoms including a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever.      

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai say it may have come from bats.

A child wears a face mask at Hong Kong's international airport today

A child wears a face mask at Hong Kong’s international airport today

A Thai nurse works next to a campaign poster alerting patients of the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok, pictured today. Four cases have been confirmed in Thailand

A Thai nurse works next to a campaign poster alerting patients of the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok, pictured today. Four cases have been confirmed in Thailand

Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated

Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated

DOCTOR INVESTIGATING OUTBREAK ADMITS HE HAS CAUGHT THE VIRUS 

A leading Chinese doctor investigating the killer coronavirus yesterday admitted he has caught the SARS-like infection.

Wang Guangfa, who heads the department of pulmonary medicine at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital, was part of a team of experts that earlier this month visited Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

‘I was diagnosed and my condition is fine,’ Dr Wang told Kong’s Cable TV. He said he is receiving treatment and will have an ‘injection’ soon.

Dr Guangfa is one of the national experts that previously said the pneumonia-causing virus, which has never been seen before, was under control.

Wang Guangfa has been infected with the new virus in China after being part of a team of doctors investigating it in Wuhan, where the virus emerged

Wang Guangfa has been infected with the new virus in China after being part of a team of doctors investigating it in Wuhan, where the virus emerged

In a statement, the team said: ‘The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.

Tests of the virus, which has yet to be named, have revealed it targets a protein called ACE2 – just like its cousin SARS, the South China Morning Post reported.  

Tracing the evolution of the virus, the experts found it belonged to betacoronavirus, making it structurally similar to SARS.

Authorities have pointed the blame on food markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that scientists are scrambling to contain.

Rodents and bats among other animals are slaughtered and sold in traditional ‘wet markets’, which tourists flock to see the ‘real’ side of the country.

Viruses – including ones carried by animals – are constantly changing and may over time become strong enough to infect humans.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first American case last night.

Following the news of the case, President Donald Trump today said that the US has a plan in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Trump said: ‘We do have a plan and we think it is going to be handled very well.

‘We’ve already handled it very well. The CDC is terrific. Very professional…’

The unidentified man, from north of Seattle, is currently hospitalized and in ‘good’ condition but is being closely monitored in isolation.

He traveled from Wuhan, but did not visit any of the markets at the epicentre of the outbreak, according to state health officials.

The man arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – but not directly from Wuhan – on January 15, the day before screening was in place, and before he developed symptoms.

But he reportedly recognized his own symptoms – which typically include cough, fever and runny nose – after seeing online coverage of the virus.

The patient reached out to doctors on January 16, was tested on the 17th and his diagnosis was confirmed Monday, health officials said.

The patient is a resident of Snahomish County in Washington State and is currently at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.

On the heels of the identification of this first US patient, all flights from Wuhan into the US are being rerouted to the three airports set up last week for screening – LAX, San Francisco and JFK – as well as an additional two locations: Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.   

Chinese quarantine workers wearing protective suits and masks are posted at an entrance to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan

Chinese quarantine workers wearing protective suits and masks are posted at an entrance to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan

An official uses an infrared thermometer on a traveler at a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Wuhan is at the centre of the outbreak

An official uses an infrared thermometer on a traveler at a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Wuhan is at the centre of the outbreak

Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre, where patients are being treated for the new coronavirus

Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre, where patients are being treated for the new coronavirus

Chinese officials today urged travellers to stop visiting Wuhan. Residents have even been urged to avoid getting into crowds to try and stop the spread of the virus.

China’s National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said: ‘Basically, do not go to Wuhan. And those in Wuhan please do not leave the city.’

In the same public briefing, he also warned there is a possibility the virus – which has yet to be officially named – will mutate, warning it could mean a further spread of the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in a meeting held in Geneva today.

If the UN body declares it an emergency, it will be just the sixth time in history that it has happened.

The only other outbreaks to have been granted such a status include the 2009 Swine flu epidemic, the resurgence of Polio in 2014, the worldwide spread of Zika in 2016 and the two most recent Ebola outbreaks in 2014 and last year.

Infectious disease scientists across Asia are concerned China could be covering up the true amount of cases of the coronavirus.

Piotr Chlebicki, at Mount Alvernia Hospital in Singapore, told South China Morning Post it was ‘hard to believe [the official number of] cases’.

He added: ‘China has a track record of under-reporting cases, so the true picture may be completely different.’

THE NEW CORONAVIRUS IN CHINA TIMELINE

December 31 2019: Total of 27 suspected cases

The WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Around 27 suspected cases were reported in the month of December.

January 1 2020: Total of 27 suspected cases

A seafood market was closed for environmental sanitation and disinfection after being closely linked with the patients.

January 5 2020: Total of 59 suspected cases

Doctors ruled out severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as being the cause of the virus, as well as bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome and adenovirus. Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported suspected cases.

January 9 2020: Total of 59 confirmed cases, one death

 A preliminary investigation identified the respiratory disease as a new type of coronavirus, Chinese state media reported.

Officials at Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the outbreak’s first death on January 9, a 61-year-old man.  

January 13 2020: Total of 42 confirmed cases, one death

A Chinese woman in Thailand was the first confirmed case of the mystery virus outside of China. The 61-year-old was quarantined on January 8, but has since returned home in a stable condition after having treatment, the Thai Health Ministry said. 

January 14 2020: Total of 42 confirmed cases, one death

 The WHO told hospitals around the globe to prepare, in the ‘possible’ event of the infection spreading.

It said there is some ‘limited’ human-to-human transmission of the virus. Two days previously, the UN agency said there was ‘no clear evidence of human to human transmission’.

January 16 2020: Total of 43 cases, two deaths

 A man in Tokyo is confirmed to have tested positive for the disease after travelling to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

A second death, a 69-year-old man, was reported by officials at Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. He died in the early hours of January 15 at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan city having first been admitted to hospital on December 31.

January 17 2020: Total of 44 cases, two deaths

Thailand announces it has detected a second case. The 74-year-old woman had been quarantined since her arrival on Monday. She lived in Wuhan.

Scientists at Imperial College London fear up to 4,500 patients in Wuhan may have caught the virus. A report said if cases are this high, substantial human to human transmission can’t be ruled out.

John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), San Francisco International Airport and Los Angles International Airport (LAX) will start screening passengers arriving from Wuhan, US officials said. 

January 18 2020: Total of 48 cases, two deaths 

Thailand steps up monitoring at four airports receiving daily flights from Wuhan. Airports in Japan, Malaysia and Singapore are also screening passengers from Wuhan, authorities said.

Four more cases have been identified in a viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, bringing the total to 45 in the city alone. 

January 19 2020: Total of 65 cases, two deaths

China reported 17 more cases of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus strain had been found in Wuhan. It takes the city’s total to 62, including two deaths, and the global total to 65.

All of the cases to this point involved people either living in Wuhan or who have travelled to the city. 

Public Health England and Britain’s chief medical officer said they would not be introducing screenings at UK airports at this point. 

January 20 2020: Total of 222 cases, three deaths.

China reported a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus over the weekend, including 136 more cases in Wuhan city, taking its total to 198.

The outbreak spread across China; five cases in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong, and one in Shanghai.

South Korea confirmed its first case – a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus. She had been in Wuhan the week prior. This took the total cases outside China to four.

Details were not revealed about the third death. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping said saving lives was a top priority, adding that information about the disease was being released in a ‘timely manner’. 

China’s National Health Commission team confirmd the virus can spread between humans.

Two patients in southern China also caught the virus from infected family members, according to local media. 

The WHO announced it would hold an emergency meeting to debate whether the outbreak should be declared an international public health emergency. 

January 21 2020: Total of 308 confirmed cases, six deaths

On this day, the death toll rose to six.

The fourth person had died on January 19, an 89-year-old man who developed symptoms, including severe breathing difficulties, on January 13.

The mayor of Wuhan announced two more victims of the lethal infection – a 66-year-old man, known only as Li, and a 48-year-old woman, known only as Yin. Both died from multiple organ failure.

Authorities also said 15 medical workers in the city were included in the confirmed cases. There is also one other suspected case. Of the infected staff, one was in critical condition.

The first American – a man in his 30s – was confirmed to have the new coronavirus outside Seattle in Washington state. 

Washington officials said he was in ‘good’ condition but was in isolation and being closely monitored at Providence Regional Medical Center – Everett, near his home in Snahomish County. 

The CDC announced that all passengers arriving to Wuhan from direct or connecting flights would be re-ticketed and rerouted through the three airports with screening already set up and two additional airports, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. 

A Brisbane man is being held in isolation over fears he may have contracted the deadly coronavirus while in Wuhan.

Queensland’s chief medical officer Dr Jeannette Young confirmed the man has been tested for the illness when he presented with flu-like symptoms after returning home. The results are still unknown.  

Australia began screening passengers arriving from a Chinese city in a bid to stop the spread, Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer for the Australian government, said.

The Philippines also announced that it was investigating its first potential case of the coronavirus. A five-year-old child arrived in the country on January 12 from Wuhan and has since been hospitalised with flu symptoms. 

Taiwan reported its first confirmed case. Health officials announced the woman, thought to be around 50 years old, worked in Wuhan. She is currently in hospital receiving treatment, according to local media.

Stock markets in China and Hong Kong dipped today amid fears tourists will refrain from travelling. But shares in firms which make surgical face masks have surged. 

The newspaper reported experts are concerned about the number of bureaucratic steps – put in place after the 2003 SARS outbreak – before a case can be confirmed.

Families of sick loved ones who have died of mystery respiratory diseases in recent weeks also believe the true number of cases and deaths is far higher than what China has admitted.

On the microblog Weibo, Wuhan residents have shared stories of family members who had shown symptoms of the virus, but not been tested for it at hospital.

One posted images of her mother’s diagnosis of viral pneumonia and described long queues of patients with similar symptoms late on Monday night, none of whom appeared to have been tested for coronavirus.

The virus has caused alarm because it is from the same family of viruses as SARS, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen today urged China to release all information about the outbreak of a new virus and work with Taiwan on curbing its spread.

At China’s insistence, Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization and is not allowed to participate in any of its meetings.

Taiwan, where one case of the coronavirus has been detected, has called on people not to visit Wuhan unless they absolutely have to.

Scores of Chinese residents have been turning to an online plague simulation game and a disaster movie called ‘The Flu’ amid the coronavirus outbreak, it can be revealed.

Plague Inc, a strategy simulation app by UK-based Ndemic creations, was today the top-paid game on the iOS operating system on China’s Apple Store.

South Korean disaster flick ‘The Flu’ was also the most searched-for movie on Chinese media review and social networking site Douban.

And a documentary on the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak topped TV searches.

Companies across China – including Huawei – were today handing out masks and warning staff to avoid the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Citic Securities has asked staff to voluntarily quarantine themselves if they do travel to Hubei, the province that Wuhan is in.

Thai officials today confirmed a fourth case, a 73-year-old woman who developed a fever after returning from Wuhan.

She was being monitored in an isolated ward in a hospital in Nakhon Pathom, 37 miles (60km) west of Bangkok.

In a message to the country, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said: ‘We can control the situation.

‘There have not been cases of human-to-human transmission in Thailand because we detected the patients as soon as they arrived.’

Saying there are no reports of the infection spreading to others, he added: ‘We checked all of them: taxi drivers, people who wheeled the wheelchairs for the patients, doctors and nurses who worked around them.’

The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau today confirmed its first case of the coronavirus – A 52-year-old Wuhan businesswoman.

Officials quickly moved to tighten temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city, giving masks to staff and travellers at hotels.

Entry points into Macau will also have temperature checks and visitors will be asked to fill in a health declaration form.

Officials have today announced football and boxing qualifying matches held in Wuhan for the Tokyo Olympic Games will be moved from Wuhan.

The Asian Football Confederation today said women’s qualifiers being held at Wuhan between February 3 and 9 will be moved to the eastern city of Nanjing.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency today also announced a boxing qualifier held in Wuhan for the same Olympics would be cancelled. It has not yet been rearranged.

Yesterday, it was announced that:

  • North Korea temporarily banned all tourists from entering the country over fears the Chinese coronavirus will spread
  • South Korean budget airline T’way Air postponed the launch of its cheap flights to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak
  • A renowned Chinese doctor investigating the outbreak caught the killer SARS-like infection himself
  • Countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Malaysia upped their screening methods to detect travellers with a fever in airports
  • Residents in various Chinese cities were queuing to buy face masks as vendors sell the medical products for 10 times more than normal
  • Stock markets in China and Hong Kong dipped amid fears tourists will refrain from travelling, despite people being urged not to panic
  • Furious families in China accused hospitals of not testing patients with tell-tale symptoms

Reports also state face masks are flying off the shelves across China as the country’s citizens prepare themselves for the potential spread of the outbreak.

Pictures and videos circulating on the country’s social media have shown residents in various cities queuing to stock up on the medical products.

On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, web users reported to have seen huge lines of customers in and outside pharmacies in hope of buying the sought-after item.

Prices for some of the most popular face masks have surged by 10-fold, according a report from Beijing Evening News.

Locals have made more than four million trips by train, road and air since January 10 in the annual travel rush for the most important holiday in the country.

The transport peak season around Lunar New Year will last until February 18 and see three billion trips made within China, according to official statistics.

A piece in Chinese newspaper the Global Times said on Sunday: ‘The entire Chinese society should be vigilant but should not be in panic.

‘We should make the upcoming Spring Festival happy and peaceful, and also pay close attention to every link where the pneumonia may increase transmission.’

Inside the epicentre of the deadly Chinese virus: First pictures show Wuhan doctors in hazmat suits treating patients who are struck down with the life-threatening infection 

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