‘Devil’ coronavirus spreads despite efforts to contain it

Beijing: Chinese authorities are marshalling ever more resources to stop the spread of a new and deadly coronavirus, even as the number of cases grows both domestically and internationally.

Residents wearing face masks walk on a street in Macau, China. Credit:Getty

Beijing upped the number of medical workers it is sending to Hubei province – the site of the initial outbreak – to nearly 6000, according to a health official cited by the Xinhua state news agency.

Of those, 4130 are already in the region, in 30 teams, while another 1800 workers are expected to arrive by the end of Tuesday.

The country has 4515 confirmed cases of the virus, with 2714 of them in Hubei. There have also been 106 deaths.

The question now is whether the efforts out of China will make a difference, as the disease has already made it across most of China and outside China's borders, with reports in the last 24 hours of new cases in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, and the first case in Germany.

Tedros Adhanom, director general of the World Health Organisation shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.Credit:AP

In the German, Japanese and Taiwan cases, authorities said that the sick individual was infected in those countries, highlighting how the disease is not only spreading within China.

The disease has been detected in about a dozen countries on four continents, according to data provided by the World Health Organisation on Monday.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese President Xi Jinping  met in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus and possible evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.

"The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide," state television quoted Xi as saying.

"China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention … China is confident of winning the battle against the virus."

A motorcyclist wearing a face mask in Macau. Credit:Getty

Worries that the disease is still getting out of China have prompted more countries and regions to set up border controls, with additional safeguards reported at US airports. Other safety attempts are more localised, such as Thai shopping centres distributing face masks.

Hong Kong said trains and ferries to and from mainland China have been cancelled in an attempt to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Speaking at a news conference and wearing a surgical mask, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the new measures, which also include restricting air travel and other forms of transportation.

The Philippines is temporarily suspending its visa-on-arrival setup for Chinese nationals on group tours to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The European Union has activated its internal rapid alert system to share information as it monitors the spread of the coronavirus. EU commissioners are to discuss the matter further on Wednesday.

Several countries – including India and South Korea – also announced plans to begin pulling their nationals out of Wuhan, despite the area being under quarantine.

Germany issued a warning against travel to China, upgrading from a previous warning only directed against Wuhan. German steel giant Thyssenkrupp also announced it was limiting business trips to China for fear of the virus.

In China, people have been urged to avoid travelling abroad to help control the spread.

In order to reduce the movement of people across the border, citizens who want to go abroad should "choose the time of the trip with reason," Xinhua said, citing the National Administration for Entry and Exit.

"If there is no particular need, it is recommended to postpone the time of the trip," it added.

The point was driven home by the two new cases confirmed in Taiwan on Tuesday: a pair of women from Wuhan who were hospitalised on Saturday with fever after arriving in Taiwan days before.

"It's likely that they contracted the new virus in Wuhan," Taiwan Centres for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang told a televised news conference.

Another Chinese tourist travelling with the two patients has been isolated and monitored by health officers, Chuang said.

China has already cordoned off entire cities in central Hubei province, in an effort to contain the spread of the disease.

The government also extended the Lunar New Year holiday for three extra days until Sunday to discourage people from travelling.

Additionally, the eastern metropolis of Shanghai has ordered many of its companies to stay closed for another two weeks. More and more companies are also urging workers to telecommute, including German software company SAP's Chinese interests. Meanwhile, German retailer Metro has begun running temperature checks of its customers in its Wuhan stores.

But the number of cases keep mounting.

According to a Xinhua report, 6973 people are suspected of being infected and 976 remain in critical condition. Monday alone saw 1771 new confirmed cases, along with 2077 new suspected cases. There were also 26 deaths reported on Monday.

In all, 47,833 people who have come into contact with the infected have been put under observation in China: Of those, 44,132 remain under observation and 914 had been discharged.

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002.

DPA, Reuters

Source: Read Full Article