- A 50-year-old man in Beijing has become the latest, and 82nd, victim of the outbreak – he died earlier today
- Cambodia today announced its first case and a second person was diagnosed in Toronto, Canada
- The World Health Organization now says there is a ‘very high’ risk of the virus spreading inside China
- Experts in the UK think the true number of cases is higher than 100,000 already, with many undiagnosed
- China’s New Year public holiday shutdown will now continue for at least another week to buy authorities time
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The World Health Organization has upgraded China’s risk to other countries as ‘high’ because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak and admitted the ‘moderate’ rating it issued last week was a mistake.
The WHO’s chief is in Beijing for crisis talks and today admitted the danger of the infection spreading to other countries is higher than previously claimed and is ‘very high’ inside China.
A total of 15 countries or territories outside of China have now confirmed cases, with Sri Lanka and Cambodia the latest to announce and a second case diagnosed in Canada today, in the wife of the Toronto man who was the first patient.
Beijing also today saw the Wuhan coronavirus claim its 82nd death when a 50-year-old man died in hospital in the nation’s capital at around 8pm local time (12pm GMT).
China has extended its New Year holiday by three days to February 2 to fight the outbreak as people have now been diagnosed with it in every corner of China, except for Tibet.
A team of scientists in the UK believe more than 100,000 people have been infected already but many of them without knowing, and expect the case and death tolls both to continue rising as the outbreak goes on.
The damage has spread to the stock markets, too, as investors fear travel cancellations and business closures, as well as growing panic outside of China, are damaging the world economy.
Researchers in Hong Kong have warned the outbreak could become a ‘global epidemic’ if the Chinese government doesn’t start ‘draconian’ travel restrictions on its citizens.
Beijing insists it is continuing drastic efforts to contain the outbreak. Measures currently in place reportedly include:
- Transport restrictions in Hubei province, which is home to around 60million people – most public transport has been stopped, along with flights in and out
- Long distance buses have been cancelled in Beijing, Shanghai and the provinces of Chongqing and Shandong
- The New Year bank holidays will continue until February 2 – an extension of three days
- All of China’s state-run schools will remain closed until further notice in an extension of a school holiday
- No businesses in Shanghai, including supermarkets, will be allowed to reopen until February 10
- Many businesses closed voluntarily before the holiday began – among them the Disney resorts in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and Starbucks and McDonald’s stores in Hubei
- Chinese citizens have been banned from booking holiday tours and flight and hotel packages in other countries, according to the New York Times
- Buying and selling wild animals has been banned until the coronavirus outbreak is over
China spurned CDC offer to send team to help contain coronavirus: US Health Secretary
Top U.S. health officials this week provided further details on the nation’s “coordinated public health response” to the China-linked coronavirus that’s killed more than 100 people and sickened thousands of others worldwide.
During a Tuesday news conference which included U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease (NCIRD) Director Nancy Messonnier, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, officials said the outbreak is a “potentially very serious public health threat” in the U.S., but the current risk to Americans remains low. To date, there are five confirmed cases of the novel virus in the U.S.
Azar said the Chinese have refused continued offers from the U.S. to send CDC officials to the country to help with the outbreak response. The offer was first made on Jan. 6, he said, adding U.S. officials have continued to urge more transparency from the country as the disease spreads.
“This is a major public health issue, and we need the best public health people in the world right now [to respond],” he said.
However, Azar noted that China’s overall response has been significantly better when compared to their response during the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003. At the time, China was accused of covering up the outbreak, which was not announced to the public until about five months after it began, according to The New York Times.
In recent weeks, Chinese government officials have said they’ve learned from “past mistakes” — top officials have reportedly warned lower-level officials to not cover up the spread of the new coronavirus, which has been linked to an animal and seafood market in the city of Wuhan and is now said to be transmissible between humans.