June 04, 2020
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    China coronavirus: Wuhan and Huanggang on lockdown

    January 23, 2020
     

    A second Chinese city will go into lockdown in an effort to control the spread of a new virus that has left 17 dead in the country.Authorities have suspended planes and trains in and out of Wuhan - a city of 11 million people - as well as all public transport within the city.Similar measures will take effect in nearby Huanggang, a city of more than seven million, as of midnight.There are more than 500 confirmed cases of the virus, which has spread abroad.The new strain of coronavirus is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan. One resident of the city said the atmosphere felt like "the end of the world".
    The lockdown comes as millions of Chinese people travel across the country for the forthcoming Lunar New Year holiday.Another Wuhan resident said on social media site Weibo that they were on the "verge of tears" when they heard about the closures.What's the latest?Wuhan's public transport lockdown came into force as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), leaving normally busy train stations and airports empty.Health authorities are reported to have made wearing a mask mandatory in the city. They are advising people to avoid crowds and public gatherings.Demand for rubber gloves and surgical masks has soared. Taobao, the Chinese online retail giant, has warned sellers not to profit from the outbreak by raising prices.
    Supermarket shelves emptied in Wuhan as residents stocked up on supplies Hours after Wuhan's lockdown came into force, authorities in Huanggang - east of Wuhan - announced a suspension of the city's bus and rail system from midnight, and encouraged people not to leave the city. Cafes, cinemas, theatres and exhibitions in both cities have been shut.Other cities are also taking action. Ezhou - a city of more than a million people just south of Huanggang - announced it had shut its train stations, while the Chinese capital Beijing announced it had cancelled all major Chinese New Year celebrations.
    All the fatalities so far have been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. Most of the 17 victims were elderly and suffered from other chronic diseases including Parkinson's disease and diabetes.The virus is now spreading at an alarming rate. The hospitals have been flooding with thousands of patients, who wait hours to see a doctor - you can imagine their panic.Normally Wuhan is a great place to live and we are proud of our work - specialists here have developed a guide for coronavirus diagnosis and treatment.But I am scared because this is a new virus and the figures are worrying.Two days ago we were told not to go to work because of the risk of contamination. If we leave our home on the hospital campus, we are required to wear masks.
    We don't want to take our two-year-old son outside. He's sleeping now, and we are trying to protect him as much as possible - handwashing, airing the apartment, avoiding contact with people.Outside I can barely see anyone on the streets. We have been told to avoid gathering.I went to the supermarket to buy food, but there was nothing left - no vegetables or biscuits. Some Lunar New Year celebrations are cancelled.People had bought tickets to go home for Lunar New Year but they can't go now. Everyone is stuck here and can't leave.
    Currently known as 2019-nCoV, the virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans. The Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed nearly 800 people globally in the early 2000s was also a coronavirus, as is the common cold.Authorities have said this new virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that "conducted illegal transactions of wild animals". The market has been shut down since the beginning of the year.
    Some researchers have suggested the illness may have originated in snakes. A study published on Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Virology said genetic analysis suggests snakes are "the most probable wildlife animal reservoir" for the virus, but this would need to be confirmed by other studies. Other researchers have questioned the claim.
    There is also evidence of human-to-human transmission with the virus spreading from patients to family members and healthcare workers.But understanding more about how the virus transmits between people is one of the major outstanding questions in this outbreak.The virus infects the lungs, and symptoms start with a fever and cough. It can progress to shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.Media captionThe BBC's online health editor talks us through what we know about the virus The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee is still debating whether or not to declare a "global emergency" over the new virus. A global emergency is the highest level of alarm the WHO can sound, and has previously been used in response to swine flu, Zika virus and Ebola.
    What symptoms did the victims have?
    This virus is new, and has been given the temporary name "2019-nCoV" - the n standing for "novel", and "CoV" indicating it's a type of coronavirus.

    It causes severe acute respiratory infection - with a fever and a cough - and requires hospital admission, according to the World Health Organisation's guidance.

    A fever is the main symptom, with some cases involving difficulty breathing. Once checked in hospital, the lungs might show signs of "pneumonic infiltrates".

    Of the 17 people known to have died, most were over 60 years old, and several had pre-existing conditions.

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    Posted at 18:4518:45
    BREAKING
    Singapore confirms first case of virus
    Singapore has confirmed its first case of the Wuhan virus, local media report.

    The Straits Times reports that a 66-year-old Chinese national tested positive for the virus, quoting a briefing from the health ministry. The man's son is also being treated as a suspected case, it said.

    Another woman from China - but who travelled separately - has also been diagnosed with the virus in preliminary tests, which have yet to be confirmed.

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    Posted at 18:4218:42
    TV presenters in face masks
    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    Face mask sales have skyrocketed across China, with the China Daily newspaper noting that “the surge in demand has hollowed out face mask inventories of some vendors on e-commerce platforms, including Taobao and JD, two of the largest online marketplaces”.

    Government mouthpiece People’s Daily has been heavily promoting particular masks people should buy, and which ones should be avoided. But it has also been issuing stern warnings against companies seeking to capitalise on the crisis by hiking prices on these products, and says that online vendors will be banned if they are caught doing so. (We've written more on that here)

    Chinese TV presenter wearing mask
    Hunan TVCopyright: Hunan TV
    Face masks have become the dominant image associated with the city of Wuhan as it goes into lockdown, to the extent that several Hunan provincial TV presenters have worn masks in their bulletins.

    Social media users are also seeing reporters based in Wuhan interviewing disgruntled travellers at train stations who have found out their journeys have been cancelled. It’s a rare sight to see someone not wearing a mask in the populous city.

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    Posted at 18:3418:34
    Railways to provide refunds
    China's state railway group says passengers can get free refunds for rail tickets nationwide from 24 January amid the coronavirus outbreak, state media report.

    Hundreds of millions of rail journeys are expected to be made across the country for Chinese New Year, which begins on 25 January.

    Rail travel in and out of Wuhan has been suspended and similar measures are due to be applied to nearby Huanggang at midnight local time (16:00 GMT).

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    Posted at 18:3018:30
    Your questions answered
    Are packages bought from Wuhan safe? - Stefan

     

    James Gallagher

    Health and science correspondent, BBC News

    There is no evidence this is a risk. Some diseases - including the coronavirus that causes Sars - can spread through surfaces contaminated by people coughing or sneezing on them.

    It has not been shown this new coronavirus can do that. Even if it could, there would still be questions about whether international shipping would be a major problem.

    Cold viruses tend to survive less than 24 hours outside the human body although norovirus (a severe stomach bug) can last months outside the body.

    The most reassuring fact so far is that cases seem to require close contact with another person - say, a family member or healthcare worker - in order to spread.

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    Posted at 18:2118:21
    What's happened in the past 24 hours?
    Hankou station in Wuhan
    ReutersCopyright: Reuters
    A worker sprays the area outside the closed Hankou station in WuhanImage caption: A worker sprays the area outside the closed Hankou station in Wuhan
    The death toll has risen to 17, with 500 cases of the virus confirmed. All the victims were in mainland China
    Wuhan's public transport lockdown came into force as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), leaving normally busy train stations and airports empty
    In Huanggang - east of Wuhan - authorities announced a suspension of the city's bus and rail system from midnight, and encouraged people not to leave the city. The nearby city of Ezhou said it would close its train stations
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    Posted at 18:1618:16
    Queues for face masks in Shanghai
    Video content

    Video caption: Coronavirus: Virus fears trigger Shanghai face mask shortageCoronavirus: Virus fears trigger Shanghai face mask shortage
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    Posted at 18:0918:09
    The best of the BBC's coverage
    The information from China is coming thick and fast - here's the best of our material for you to follow:

    Your questions about the outbreak answered
    How worried should we be?
    The city now in lockdown - Wuhan profiled
    How do you quarantine a city - and does it work?
    Full coverage here
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    Posted at 18:0718:07
    Embassy searches for Wuhan tourist in France
    Lucy Williamson

    BBC News Paris Correspondent

    The Chinese Embassy in Paris has told the BBC that they are trying to locate a woman from the Wuhan area who said on social media that she had taken medication to suppress signs of the virus in order to enter France.

    There is no confirmation of whether she is still in France, or whether she does have the virus.

    The woman had reportedly passed through screening at customs while flights out of Wuhan were still operating and then posted pictures of herself eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France and described how she had managed to get there.

    She has been widely criticised by other Chinese social media users, the South China Morning Post reports.

    Social embed from twitter

    Laurie Chen

    @lauriechenwords
    So it's true: a Wuhan woman with mild fever symptoms took meds to bring her temp down, passed screening at customs, flew to France, ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant -- and bragged about it all on WeChat. She was shamed on social media & the Chinese Embassy tracked her down.

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    Posted at 17:5917:59
    How the virus has spread through China
    A heatmap shows the spread of cases with the Hubei province, where Wuhan and Huangong are, at the core - while western China remains mostly unaffected
    BBCCopyright: BBC
    All the fatalities so far have been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

    But Wuhan is also a major transport hub, and non-fatal cases of the virus appear to have spread from the city to other provinces, mainly in the east of the country.

    Apart from the city's airports, it's also well-connected by railway to major population centres - including Shanghai and Beijing.

    Maps show the rail transport connections of Wuhan
    BBCCopyright: BBC
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    Posted at 17:5317:53
    Your questions answered
    Is it possible to vaccinate? - Hans Friedrich

    Michelle Roberts

    Health editor, BBC News online

    At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against this type of coronavirus, but researchers are looking to develop one.

    It is a new strain that hasn't been seen in humans before, which means doctors still have lots to learn about it.

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    Posted at 17:4617:46
    Can you quarantine an entire city?
    Owen Amos

    BBC News, Singapore

    A general view of Wuhan shows the elaborate Yellow Crane Tower set against the bridge and river
    GettyCopyright: Getty
    Can you quarantine an entire city? And if you can - does it work?

    Wuhan is a huge place - the 42nd biggest city in the world, according to UN data - and cannot easily be turned into an isolation ward.

    "The only way you could do it, realistically, would be to ring-fence the city with the PLA [Chinese military]," says Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, a health security expert from the University of Sydney.

    But even if they do it, where - literally - would they draw the line? Like most modern cities, Wuhan sprawls into smaller towns and villages.

    Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's representative in China, puts it more bluntly.

    "To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science," he told the Associated Press. "We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work."

    And even if it proves possible to shut the stable door on Wuhan, the horse may already have bolted.

    Read more: How do you quarantine a city - and does it work?
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    Posted at 17:4217:42
    Criticisms emerge in Chinese media
    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    Some criticisms are appearing in Chinese media about why the authorities were slow to respond to the outbreak.

    The Chengdu Business Daily is asking “why didn’t Wuhan close the city earlier” and Hu Xijin, the editor of prominent newspaper Global Times acknowledges that there was a “failure” to contain the virus, saying he was "worried that some places, while attaching great importance to meetings and slogans, have not really been mobilised to deal with a large public health battle”.

    Elsewhere, The Paper also interviews a couple, who say they suspect they may have the virus, but have waited days on end without being diagnosed or quarantined.

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    Posted at 17:3617:36
    Airports exercise extreme caution
    Dozens of passengers at an airport are all seen wearing face masks in a queue stretching into the distance
    ReutersCopyright: Reuters
    At Japan's Narita airport, passengers on flights from Wuhan, that launched just before the lockdown came in, wore whatever protection they could findImage caption: At Japan's Narita airport, passengers on flights from Wuhan, that launched just before the lockdown came in, wore whatever protection they could find
    A female airport employee in uniform, and masked, pulls on surgical gloves to inspect baggage
    AFPCopyright: AFP
    In Rome's Fiumicino airport, an employee dons protective gear to check-in luggage from WuhanImage caption: In Rome's Fiumicino airport, an employee dons protective gear to check-in luggage from Wuhan
    A flight board shows all flights cancelled
    AFPCopyright: AFP
    The departures board in Wuhan's airport on Thursday had one main messageImage caption: The departures board in Wuhan's airport on Thursday had one main message
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    Posted at 17:2817:28
    Why hasn’t the WHO declared a global emergency?

    James Gallagher

    Health and science correspondent, BBC News

    Don’t rule it out yet, but this is not a clear-cut decision.

    After a full day of deliberations on Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee was split on whether to declare a global emergency. Instead it is spending another day assessing the evidence.

    The challenge is the facts are changing as scientists grapple with key questions such as how easily the coronavirus spreads from person to person and what is the true scale of the outbreak beyond those appearing in hospital.

    Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said it was an “evolving and complex situation” and that “appropriate consideration of all the evidence” was needed.

    There are three tests that need to be passed before declaring a public health emergency of international concern. It must be an “extraordinary event” with a risk of “international spread” that requires a “co-ordinated international response”.

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    Posted at 17:2217:22
    Wuhan mayor acknowledges criticism
    The mayor of Wuhan has acknowledged that officials were too slow to control the disease.

    Zhou Xianwang said the authorities didn't fully understand the danger of the virus -- or how quickly it would spread.

    The mayor has been criticised by some residents of Wuhan - a major transport hub - who say he should have acted quicker.

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    Posted at 17:2117:21
    'This virus couldn’t have emerged at a worse time'
    Anna Jones

    BBC News, Singapore

    Ritan park Beijing 21 Jan
    EPACopyright: EPA
    A woman walks in Beijing's Ritan Park past lanterns set up ahead of Chinese New YearImage caption: A woman walks in Beijing's Ritan Park past lanterns set up ahead of Chinese New Year
    The Beijing Daily newspaper reports that Beijing has cancelled large-scale events including some Chinese New Year celebrations as a precaution against the virus spreading.

    The cancelled events include many temple fairs, visits to which are a popular new year activity.

    What happens at Chinese New Year?

    This virus couldn’t have emerged at a worse time for Chinese people. The lunar new year - the biggest holiday of the year - is this weekend.

    That’s when people across China, as in all countries that mark the lunar calendar, get together with their families for reunion dinners and celebrations.

    In China alone, hundreds of millions of people travel often vast distances to get home. For many it’s their only break in the year and the only time to see their loved ones.

    That makes for the world's biggest annual human migration - before the coronavirus outbreak some 440 million rail journeys were expected to be made and nearly 80 million people were expected to take flights.

    For those in Wuhan, spending the holiday cooped up at home instead, and worrying about the virus, will be a miserable experience for many, many people.

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    Posted at 17:0717:07
    Wuhan still calm - for now
    Grace Tsoi

    BBC World Service, Hong Kong

    I’ve been trying to look for people in Wuhan to talk about how life is like after the city was put into a lockdown, but many are not willing to speak on record for fear of possible repercussions.

    The city is quiet – also partly because the Chinese New Year is coming this Saturday. Wuhan is a major transportation hub and home to many universities.

    People are worried about the spread of the disease, but things are still calm for now. Some of the people told me they were going to stay home during the Chinese New Year holiday, instead of visiting relatives, to minimise contact with others.

    Most are wearing face masks now, which didn’t happen before – and some are blaming the government for not revealing the severity of the outbreak. One told me only pharmacies and supermarkets are still open.

    But hospitals are full and patients need to wait for four to five hours just to see doctors, even when they display respiratory symptoms.
    Post disinfected, film releases delayed
    Beyond travel problems, Wuhan’s lockdown has resulted in disruptions to China’s film and postal industries.China Post has confirmed that parcels passing through the city are now being subject to a screening and disinfection process. As it is common in China for couriers to deliver goods directly to people via motorbikes, the company is urging consumers to now contact couriers by phone, and arrange for their goods to be delivered to a collection point or parcel box "to reduce person-to-person contact".This means that people stranded in the city may not even receive New Year presents from their loved ones.At least seven films have suddenly postponed their releases nationwide as well, with Sina Entertainment saying that they’re “worried about the further spread of the epidemic” and “considering the risk of disease transmission in theconfined space of cinemas”.This is a major blow to China's film industry - film companies have traditionally tried to schedule their films during Chinese New Year to maximise their profits, given it is the time of year when there are few people are at work.

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    Posted at 18:5718:57
    Your questions answered
    Is there a reason these viruses are emerging more from China? - Gautam

     

    James Gallagher

    Health and science correspondent, BBC News

    Yes - large populations of people living in close proximity to animals.

    This coronavirus almost certainly came from an animal source, with one suggestion being snakes. Sars, another coronavirus that originated in China, came from bats and the civet cat.

    The early cases of this new infection were traced to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market. Live wild animals were also sold including chickens, bats and snakes.

    It is a far cry from the usual shopping experience if you are used to your meat nicely cut up and in clear plastic packaging in your typical Western supermarket.

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    Posted at 18:5618:56
    What symptoms did the victims have?
    This virus is new, and has been given the temporary name "2019-nCoV" - the n standing for "novel", and "CoV" indicating it's a type of coronavirus.

    It causes severe acute respiratory infection - with a fever and a cough - and requires hospital admission, according to the World Health Organisation's guidance.

    A fever is the main symptom, with some cases involving difficulty breathing. Once checked in hospital, the lungs might show signs of "pneumonic infiltrates".

    Of the 17 people known to have died, most were over 60 years old, and several had pre-existing conditions.

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    Posted at 18:4518:45
    BREAKING
    Singapore confirms first case of virus
    Singapore has confirmed its first case of the Wuhan virus, local media report.

    The Straits Times reports that a 66-year-old Chinese national tested positive for the virus, quoting a briefing from the health ministry. The man's son is also being treated as a suspected case, it said.

    Another woman from China - but who travelled separately - has also been diagnosed with the virus in preliminary tests, which have yet to be confirmed.

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    Posted at 18:4218:42
    TV presenters in face masks
    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    Face mask sales have skyrocketed across China, with the China Daily newspaper noting that “the surge in demand has hollowed out face mask inventories of some vendors on e-commerce platforms, including Taobao and JD, two of the largest online marketplaces”.

    Government mouthpiece People’s Daily has been heavily promoting particular masks people should buy, and which ones should be avoided. But it has also been issuing stern warnings against companies seeking to capitalise on the crisis by hiking prices on these products, and says that online vendors will be banned if they are caught doing so. (We've written more on that here)

    Chinese TV presenter wearing mask
    Hunan TVCopyright: Hunan TV
    Face masks have become the dominant image associated with the city of Wuhan as it goes into lockdown, to the extent that several Hunan provincial TV presenters have worn masks in their bulletins.

    Social media users are also seeing reporters based in Wuhan interviewing disgruntled travellers at train stations who have found out their journeys have been cancelled. It’s a rare sight to see someone not wearing a mask in the populous city.

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    Posted at 18:3418:34
    Railways to provide refunds
    China's state railway group says passengers can get free refunds for rail tickets nationwide from 24 January amid the coronavirus outbreak, state media report.

    Hundreds of millions of rail journeys are expected to be made across the country for Chinese New Year, which begins on 25 January.

    Rail travel in and out of Wuhan has been suspended and similar measures are due to be applied to nearby Huanggang at midnight local time

     

    There is no evidence this is a risk. Some diseases - including the coronavirus that causes Sars - can spread through surfaces contaminated by people coughing or sneezing on them.

    It has not been shown this new coronavirus can do that. Even if it could, there would still be questions about whether international shipping would be a major problem.

    Cold viruses tend to survive less than 24 hours outside the human body although norovirus (a severe stomach bug) can last months outside the body.

    The most reassuring fact so far is that cases seem to require close contact with another person - say, a family member or healthcare worker - in order to spread.

     

    A worker sprays the area outside the closed Hankou station in WuhanImage caption: A worker sprays the area outside the closed Hankou station in Wuhan
    The death toll has risen to 17, with 500 cases of the virus confirmed. All the victims were in mainland China
    Wuhan's public transport lockdown came into force as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT), leaving normally busy train stations and airports empty
    In Huanggang - east of Wuhan - authorities announced a suspension of the city's bus and rail system from midnight, and encouraged people not to leave the city. The nearby city of Ezhou said it would close its train stations
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    Posted at 18:1618:16
    Queues for face masks in Shanghai
    Video content

    Video caption: Coronavirus: Virus fears trigger Shanghai face mask shortageCoronavirus: Virus fears trigger Shanghai face mask shortage
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    Posted at 18:0918:09
    The best of the BBC's coverage
    The information from China is coming thick and fast - here's the best of our material for you to follow:

    Your questions about the outbreak answered
    How worried should we be?
    The city now in lockdown - Wuhan profiled
    How do you quarantine a city - and does it work?
    Full coverage here
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    Posted at 18:0718:07
    Embassy searches for Wuhan tourist in France
    Lucy Williamson

    BBC News Paris Correspondent

    The Chinese Embassy in Paris has told the BBC that they are trying to locate a woman from the Wuhan area who said on social media that she had taken medication to suppress signs of the virus in order to enter France.

    There is no confirmation of whether she is still in France, or whether she does have the virus.

    The woman had reportedly passed through screening at customs while flights out of Wuhan were still operating and then posted pictures of herself eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France and described how she had managed to get there.

    She has been widely criticised by other Chinese social media users, the South China Morning Post reports.

    Social embed from twitter

    Laurie Chen

    @lauriechenwords
    So it's true: a Wuhan woman with mild fever symptoms took meds to bring her temp down, passed screening at customs, flew to France, ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant -- and bragged about it all on WeChat. She was shamed on social media & the Chinese Embassy tracked her down.

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    Posted at 17:5917:59
    How the virus has spread through China
    A heatmap shows the spread of cases with the Hubei province, where Wuhan and Huangong are, at the core - while western China remains mostly unaffected
    BBCCopyright: BBC
    All the fatalities so far have been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

    But Wuhan is also a major transport hub, and non-fatal cases of the virus appear to have spread from the city to other provinces, mainly in the east of the country.

    Apart from the city's airports, it's also well-connected by railway to major population centres - including Shanghai and Beijing.

    Maps show the rail transport connections of Wuhan
    BBCCopyright: BBC
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    Posted at 17:5317:53
    Your questions answered
    Is it possible to vaccinate? - Hans Friedrich

    Michelle Roberts

    Health editor, BBC News online

    At the moment, there is no vaccine that can protect people against this type of coronavirus, but researchers are looking to develop one.

    It is a new strain that hasn't been seen in humans before, which means doctors still have lots to learn about it.

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    Posted at 17:4617:46
    Can you quarantine an entire city?
    Owen Amos

    BBC News, Singapore

    A general view of Wuhan shows the elaborate Yellow Crane Tower set against the bridge and river
    GettyCopyright: Getty
    Can you quarantine an entire city? And if you can - does it work?

    Wuhan is a huge place - the 42nd biggest city in the world, according to UN data - and cannot easily be turned into an isolation ward.

    "The only way you could do it, realistically, would be to ring-fence the city with the PLA [Chinese military]," says Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, a health security expert from the University of Sydney.

    But even if they do it, where - literally - would they draw the line? Like most modern cities, Wuhan sprawls into smaller towns and villages.

    Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's representative in China, puts it more bluntly.

    "To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science," he told the Associated Press. "We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work."

    And even if it proves possible to shut the stable door on Wuhan, the horse may already have bolted.

    Read more: How do you quarantine a city - and does it work?
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    Posted at 17:4217:42
    Criticisms emerge in Chinese media
    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    Some criticisms are appearing in Chinese media about why the authorities were slow to respond to the outbreak.

    The Chengdu Business Daily is asking “why didn’t Wuhan close the city earlier” and Hu Xijin, the editor of prominent newspaper Global Times acknowledges that there was a “failure” to contain the virus, saying he was "worried that some places, while attaching great importance to meetings and slogans, have not really been mobilised to deal with a large public health battle”.

    Elsewhere, The Paper also interviews a couple, who say they suspect they may have the virus, but have waited days on end without being diagnosed or quarantined.

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    Posted at 17:3617:36
    Airports exercise extreme caution
    Dozens of passengers at an airport are all seen wearing face masks in a queue stretching into the distance
    ReutersCopyright: Reuters
    At Japan's Narita airport, passengers on flights from Wuhan, that launched just before the lockdown came in, wore whatever protection they could findImage caption: At Japan's Narita airport, passengers on flights from Wuhan, that launched just before the lockdown came in, wore whatever protection they could find
    A female airport employee in uniform, and masked, pulls on surgical gloves to inspect baggage
    AFPCopyright: AFP
    In Rome's Fiumicino airport, an employee dons protective gear to check-in luggage from WuhanImage caption: In Rome's Fiumicino airport, an employee dons protective gear to check-in luggage from Wuhan
    A flight board shows all flights cancelled
    AFPCopyright: AFP
    The departures board in Wuhan's airport on Thursday had one main messageImage caption: The departures board in Wuhan's airport on Thursday had one main message
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    Posted at 17:2817:28
    Why hasn’t the WHO declared a global emergency?

    James Gallagher

    Health and science correspondent, BBC News

    Don’t rule it out yet, but this is not a clear-cut decision.

    After a full day of deliberations on Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee was split on whether to declare a global emergency. Instead it is spending another day assessing the evidence.

    The challenge is the facts are changing as scientists grapple with key questions such as how easily the coronavirus spreads from person to person and what is the true scale of the outbreak beyond those appearing in hospital.

    Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said it was an “evolving and complex situation” and that “appropriate consideration of all the evidence” was needed.

    There are three tests that need to be passed before declaring a public health emergency of international concern. It must be an “extraordinary event” with a risk of “international spread” that requires a “co-ordinated international response”.

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    The mayor of Wuhan has acknowledged that officials were too slow to control the disease.

    Zhou Xianwang said the authorities didn't fully understand the danger of the virus -- or how quickly it would spread.

    The mayor has been criticised by some residents of Wuhan - a major transport hub - who say he should have acted quicker.

     

    A woman walks in Beijing's Ritan Park past lanterns set up ahead of Chinese New YearImage caption: A woman walks in Beijing's Ritan Park past lanterns set up ahead of Chinese New Year
    The Beijing Daily newspaper reports that Beijing has cancelled large-scale events including some Chinese New Year celebrations as a precaution against the virus spreading.

    The cancelled events include many temple fairs, visits to which are a popular new year activity.

    What happens at Chinese New Year?

    This virus couldn’t have emerged at a worse time for Chinese people. The lunar new year - the biggest holiday of the year - is this weekend.

    That’s when people across China, as in all countries that mark the lunar calendar, get together with their families for reunion dinners and celebrations.

    In China alone, hundreds of millions of people travel often vast distances to get home. For many it’s their only break in the year and the only time to see their loved ones.

    That makes for the world's biggest annual human migration - before the coronavirus outbreak some 440 million rail journeys were expected to be made and nearly 80 million people were expected to take flights.

    For those in Wuhan, spending the holiday cooped up at home instead, and worrying about the virus, will be a miserable experience for many, many people.

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    race Tsoi

    I’ve been trying to look for people in Wuhan to talk about how life is like after the city was put into a lockdown, but many are not willing to speak on record for fear of possible repercussions.The city is quiet – also partly because the Chinese New Year is coming this Saturday. Wuhan is a major transportation hub and home to many universities.People are worried about the spread of the disease, but things are still calm for now. Some of the people told me they were going to stay home during the Chinese New Year holiday, instead of visiting relatives, to minimise contact with others.Most are wearing face masks now, which didn’t happen before – and some are blaming the government for not revealing the severity of the outbreak. One told me only pharmacies and supermarkets are still open.But hospitals are full and patients need to wait for four to five hours just to see doctors, even when they display respiratory symptoms.

    How do you quarantine a city - and does it work?
    By Owen Amos
    BBC News
    3 hours ago
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    Related TopicsCoronavirus outbreak
    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    Workers disinfect the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, a day before the shutdown
    With two days until the Chinese New Year, the railway station in Wuhan should be buzzing.

    Across the country, millions of people are heading home to see loved ones. But in China's seventh biggest city - home of the coronavirus - most platforms are deserted.

    As of 10:00 on Thursday (02:00 GMT), buses, trains, subways and ferries were stopped from leaving the city.

    Flights were also suspended. Roads are not officially closed, but roadblocks have been reported, and residents have been told not to leave.

    So the question is - can you quarantine an entire city? And if you can - does it work?

    Image copyrightREUTERS
    Image caption
    Thermal scanners that detect temperatures of passengers inside the Hankou station in Tuesday
    Wuhan is a huge place - the 42nd biggest city in the world, according to UN data - and cannot easily be turned into an isolation ward.

    More than 20 major roads come into Wuhan, plus dozens of smaller ones. Even with public transport closed, sealing the city would require a massive military effort.

    "The only way you could do it, realistically, would be to ring-fence the city with the PLA [Chinese military]," says Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, a health security expert from the University of Sydney.

    But even if they do it, where - literally - would they draw the line? Like most modern cities, Wuhan sprawls into smaller towns and villages.

    "Cities are shaped in unorthodox ways," says Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, a pandemics expert also from the University of Sydney,

    "You can't really block every road and every connection. It may be possible to an extent... but it's not a foolproof measure."

    Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's representative in China, puts it more bluntly.

    "To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science," he told the Associated Press. "We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work."

    And - even if it proves possible to shut the stable door on Wuhan - the horse may already have bolted.

     

    Media captionBritish passenger Thomas Crosby describes journey from virus-hit Wuhan
    The Wuhan virus was reported to the WHO on 31 December. It wasn't until 20 January that officials in China confirmed it could be passed human-to-human.

    By that time, tens of thousands of people had been and gone from the city. The virus has since been reported across China and Asia, and even in the US - all in people who had recently been in Wuhan.

    But, even though the virus is spreading worldwide, Prof Kamradt-Scott says the domestic situation is more worrying.

    "In each of the [other] countries where we've seen cases emerge, it's only been one or two, or four in Thailand," says Prof Kamradt-Scott.

    "They're very small numbers of cases. It appears they have effectively been caught in time to prevent further transmission locally. So the bigger concern is within China."

    Of the 571 cases reported by Thursday, 375 were in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital. But there were another 26 in Guangdong, 10 in Beijing, plus 38 possible cases in Hong Kong.

    "If the virus is already there, and there's already local community transmission, then the measures in Wuhan are too late," says Prof Kamradt-Scott.

    Prof Prokopenko agrees that the international response has been good. Passengers on the last plane from Wuhan to Sydney, for example, were greeted by biosecurity officials.

    The problem, the professor says, is many people could have the virus and not even know it.

    "There is a difference between infected and infectious," he warns.

    "Infected people have a virus in their organism, but they are not yet infectious. They don't show symptoms. They look totally normal until they have already been in contact with other people."

    The normal incubation period for flu, he says, is two or three days. But for a coronavirus, it could be five to six days, a week, or even longer.

    That is - someone could have caught the virus last week, taken it across the world, infected others, and still not know they are ill.

    "And when they do start showing symptoms, it may be confused with common cold or flu," says Prof Prokopenko. "That's the difficulty."

    Fear grips Chinese city as virus lockdown begins
    Wuhan: The London-sized city where the virus began
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    None of this means China is wrong to try to contain the virus. The WHO has praised their efforts, and there are some precedents for what experts call "social distancing".

    In April 2009, Mexico City shut down bars, cinemas, theatres, football grounds, and even churches in an attempt to stop swine flu. Restaurants were only allowed to serve takeaway food.

    "It did apparently slow the transmission of the virus in Mexico City, and helped authorities get a handle on the situation," says Prof Kamradt-Scott. "Did it stop it completely? No."

    So overall, is the Wuhan shutdown worthwhile?

    "China has only been reporting confirmed cases," says Prof Kamradt-Scott.

    "On the basis of those numbers [571 cases, with 17 dead], if it was me, I probably wouldn't do it. But if there are thousands of suspected cases, then that would considerably change the equation."

    The London-sized city where the virus began
    23 January 2020
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    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    The Yangtze (brown) and Han rivers (blue) merge in Wuhan
    Wuhan may not be a well-known Chinese mega-city like Beijing or Shanghai.

    But the place where the coronavirus outbreak emerged is, in fact, a crowded metropolis with connections to every part of the globe.

    Estimates vary on the exact size of the population, with local government officials putting the figure at 11 million, though UN data from 2018 says 8.9 million people live in the central Chinese city.

    Either way, the city is around the same size as London, but much bigger than Washington DC.

    One estimate makes it the 42nd biggest city in the world, and the seventh biggest in China.

    And it's the size - and economic clout - of Wuhan that explains why the virus has travelled quickly across Asia, and even to the US.

    In short, the virus has spread so widely because lots of people visit Wuhan and take the virus home with them.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    Wuhan was a host city for the 2019 Basketball World Cup - including this match between Argentina and Nigeria
    Wuhan international airport handled 20 million passengers in 2016, and offers direct flights to London, Paris, Dubai, and other cities around the world.

    The city is built along the Yangtze river and, according to its website, it is a "foundation of in both hi-tech manufacturing and traditional manufacturing".

    It has a series of industrial zones, 52 "institutions of higher learning", and claims more than 700,000 students - including, reportedly, the largest number of undergraduates in the country.

    Some 230 of the world's 500 biggest companies (as measured by the Fortune Global list) have invested there.

    There is also notable investment from France - which had a foreign concession in Hankou, in today's Wuhan, between 1886 and 1943. More than 100 French firms have invested in the city and Peugeot-Citroen has a Chinese joint-venture plant there.

    Wuhan can also serve as a gateway to the Three Gorges - a tourist region and home to a huge hydroelectric dam.

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    So, although the coronavirus originated in a local seafood market, the flow of people in and out of Wuhan has ensured its spread.

    The US patient, for example, had recently visited Wuhan, as had both Japanese patients. The Korean patient lived there. The case in Thailand is a Chinese tourist from Wuhan.

    The huge flow of people in and out of Wuhan will only increase as Chinese New Year approaches, and millions of people return home to celebrate.

    China's National Health Commission said travellers should avoid Wuhan, and that Wuhan residents should not leave the city.

    But Wuhan's status as one of the biggest - and most connected - places in the world means international cases will almost certainly continue to emerge.

     

     

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