At least 48 million people were ordered on lockdown in central China with a travel ban covering 15 cities in the central Hubei province, where the virus was first encountered. Here's what we know:
●Hong Kong announced that its schools would be closed until Feb. 17 to try to limit the possibility of transmission.
●The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a second person in the United States has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
●Infections have been confirmed in France, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Australia and the United States. We’re mapping the spread here.
●Authorities around China, including in the capital, Beijing, have canceled the temple fairs and festivals that accompany the Spring Festival to avoid having large public gatherings where the airborne virus could spread.
January 25, 2020 at 8:35 PM EST
South Korea reports third case of coronavirus
WASHINGTON —A third case of coronavirus has been confirmed in South Korea, according to a state-funded news organization. The patient is a 54-year-old South Korean man who on Monday returned to the country from Wuhan. He had been kept in isolation since he reported symptoms on Saturday.
By Marisa Iati
January 25, 2020 at 8:00 PM EST
China announces a coronavirus death in Shanghai
WASHINGTON —An 88-year-old man in Shanghai has died from coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 56, Chinese state-run media reported. The number of confirmed cases of the virus in China also has continued to rise and on Sunday morning, local time, totaled more than 1,900.
By Marisa Iati
January 25, 2020 at 6:55 PM EST
13 new deaths from coronavirus announced in China
WASHINGTON — China announced Sunday morning, local time, that 13 more people have died from coronavirus and 323 additional cases have been confirmed in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. The new information brings the number of confirmed cases worldwide to more than 1,700 and the number of deaths to 55.
By Marisa Iati
January 25, 2020 at 3:50 PM EST
Coronavirus patients are spreading disease to two to three people each, researchers say
WASHINGTON — Those infected with coronavirus are transmitting the disease to two to three people each, two studies have found, helping to explain the virus's rapid spread.
Officials must stop more than 60 percent of the virus's transmission to control the outbreak, the scientists said, which will be a challenge because it is clear the disease is being passed human to human.
China has taken a series of drastic steps in recent days to try to contain the outbreak, including a quarantine of 48 million citizens, halting inter-province buses to and from Beijing and suspending all tour groups from journeys outside the country. More than 1,400 people have become infected with the virus and 42 have died.
Scientists still have many questions about the virus, which they are working to understand as quickly as possible. The severity spectrum of the disease remains unclear, and it is not clear whether people with mild symptoms are able to transmit the virus, researchers said.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 2:40 PM EST
China says medical center to be transformed into hospital with more than 1,000 beds
WASHINGTON — Construction workers were rushing to transform a medical center in Huanggang, a city also under quarantine about 30 miles from Wuhan, into a hospital with more than 1,000 beds within 48 hours, according to Chinese state media.
More than 500 construction workers were helping to reconstruct the medical center so it can quickly treat the growing number of patients with symptoms of coronavirus. There are more than 1,400 confirmed cases and 42 deaths.
Workers in Wuhan are also racing to build a 1,000-bed hospital to treat victims of the disease. Hospitals in that city have struggled to deal with the outbreak, with accounts emerging of shortages of just about everything. One exhausted doctor died of a heart attack on Thursday while tending patients.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 1:40 PM EST
U.S. is exploring options to help U.S. citizens in Wuhan, but no confirmed plans yet
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is exploring options to help U.S. citizens in Wuhan, but reports that a charter flight was being arranged to bring citizens and diplomats back to the United States are false, according to a voice mail at the embassy.
When a Washington Post reporter called the U.S. embassy in Beijing to inquire about the chartered flight, the reporter was directed to a voicemail that said the reports were false and there were "no confirmed arrangements at this time." Americans in Wuhan who are looking for assistance or are trying to leave the city were directed to an email address.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 12:40 PM EST
On flight from Taipei, a popular carry-on item: Surgical mask
LOS ANGELES — Even the flight attendants for the Eva Air-operated flight from Taipei exited the customs gate in immaculate uniforms with matching face masks.
Anthony Su, 53 — who traveled through Taipei en route to his home in California after 10 days in Fuzhou, a city in southeastern China — said 90 percent of travelers on his flight wore masks. The airport wasn’t handing them out, he said. The passengers brought them themselves in attempts to protect against the coronavirus spreading from China.
When he first heard about the outbreak in China, Su said he drastically limited his activities.
“I tried to avoid public areas, not go to the restaurant or any public place,” he said.
Another passenger, Thom Wuang, 42, of Pasadena, Calif., said this was the first time he had donned a mask while visiting Taipei.
The timing couldn’t be worse, said Wuang, who was there to celebrate Lunar New Year.
“The Lunar New Year is like American Thanksgiving and Christmas combined,” he said.
By Miranda Green
January 25, 2020 at 12:10 PM EST
Virus worries mute some holiday celebrations in Seattle area
SEATTLE — About 30 minutes south of the hospital caring for the man with the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus infection, some Chinese Americans in Seattle changed their plans for their biggest holiday of the year to avoid any chance of contact with someone who might be infected.
One woman, who declined to give her name, said she canceled her family’s restaurant reservations for Lunar New Year in favor of dinner at home. She said she doubted she’d be making a Chinese feast either. Out of an abundance of caution, she said she didn’t want to go to the Asian market to buy ingredients.
The Northwest Chinese School, with locations in Bellevue, Wash., and Seattle, sent out an email calling off weekend classes for preschoolers through adults. “We take the health of our students and families very seriously and think that this is the best course of action,” officials wrote.
And on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, a Chinese student association distributed face masks in Red Square, a central hub paved with red bricks. Students were asked to contribute to efforts to send supplies such as face masks and protective suits to China.
By Bonnie Rochman
January 25, 2020 at 11:50 AM EST
Wildlife market remains under study as possible virus vector
TOKYO -- Health experts say China failed to learn one of the most important lessons of the SARS outbreak eight years ago — that wild animal markets are a potent breeding ground for disease with the possibility of ailments jumping to humans.
SARS was thought to have originated in masked palm civets, tree-dwelling mammals native to parts of Asia. The trigger point for the current coronavirus remains unclear, but scientists are looking closely at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. Despite its name, the market also appeared to be selling live cats and dogs, wild chickens, snakes and marmots.
China implemented controls on wildlife markets after the SARS epidemic, but those controls soon evaporated. The country remains a major consumer of wild and endangered animals for meat, as well as in traditional medicine. The SARS outbreak claimed more than 750 lives in China and other countries.
A study published in the Lancet medical journal Friday confirmed the current outbreak is a new form of coronavirus, which is closest to the SARS-related coronaviruses found in Chinese horseshoe bats.
Some scientists believe another species was involved in transmitting the disease to humans, but no consensus has yet emerged on which animal, with theories ranging from snakes to mink.
By Simon Denyer
January 25, 2020 at 11:30 AM EST
China tour groups blocked from overseas trips
China is suspending all tour groups from journeys outside the country, state media reported, in another attempt to keep the virus from possibly spreading to new regions and countries.
The order could have a wide impact across China. The Lunar New Year holiday, which began Friday, is the busiest time in China for travel and package tour vacations.
Tour groups in the middle of their trips will be able to continue their itineraries, state media reported, but cautioned that travelers’ health should be closely monitored. Earlier Saturday, authorities announced plans to temporarily halt inter-province buses to and from Beijing beginning Sunday.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 10:30 AM EST
Olympic qualifiers moved from Wuhan by IOC
The International Olympic Committee has moved some Summer Games qualifying events from Wuhan after the coronavirus outbreak.
From March 3-11, Amman, Jordan, will host boxing qualifier matches for Asia and Oceana that were originally set for Wuhan next month. A women’s soccer qualifying match beginning Feb. 3 that was also planned for Wuhan has been shifted to Nanjing, China.
By Miriam Berger
January 25, 2020 at 10:10 AM EST
China suspends inter-province bus services to and from Beijing
Chinese authorities announced a halt to all inter-province bus services to and from Beijing in an effort to contain the growing coronavirus outbreak, according to local news reports.
The move was part of wider measures by China to limit movement around the country. Beijing has more than 30 confirmed cases of the virus.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 9:55 AM EST
U.S., France, Russia evacuating citizens from Wuhan
France and Russia were working to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan despite a lockdown on the city as fears about the coronavirus’s rapid spread grew.
France has confirmed three cases of the virus, and the United States has confirmed two, saying at least 50 people are under observation for the illness in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
French officials are working on a plan to evacuate nationals out of Wuhan by allowing them to take a bus to Changsha, about 100 miles southwest of Wuhan, according to the South China Morning Post.
Russian officials are working with China to organize the departure of Russian citizens from Wuhan and the Hubei province, Georgy Egorov, press officer of the Russian Embassy in China, told Russia’s RIA Novosti. Up to 7,000 Russian citizens are on organized tours in China, the executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, Maya Lomidze, told Russian news agency Interfax.
On Saturday morning, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the U.S. was arranging a charter flight on Sunday to fly its citizens and diplomats back from Wuhan. The U.S. embassy in Beijing said that report was incorrect and options are still being explored.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
January 25, 2020 at 9:40 AM EST
China’s Xi warns of ‘grave’ threat posed by the expanding virus
The viral outbreak, during the busy Lunar New Year travel season, has infected more than 1,200 people worldwide so far and posed the biggest public health challenge to the Chinese government in more than a decade.
Xi instructed China’s highest ruling council, the Politburo Standing Committee, to “comprehensively mobilize” resources and manpower to provide medical aid, guarantee security and order in hospitals and provide markets with supplies for the strained city of Wuhan, the epidemic’s epicenter.
“As long as we are resolute … we can win the battle of controlling the epidemic,” he told top party leaders, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The ruling party’s central leadership has formed working groups to directly manage the crisis following reports suggesting that local authorities in Wuhan and the Hubei province did not respond as quickly as possible during the early stages of the outbreak last month.
Officials have announced the emergency construction of two hospitals to treat patients in Wuhan, where existing facilities have been overfilled and medical personnel have been collapsing from exhaustion.
More than a dozen cities in Hubei have been effectively locked down, and flights have been restricted at Wuhan, the regional hub.
By Gerry Shih
January 25, 2020 at 9:15 AM EST
Japan steps up health measures as China tourists pour in
In Japan, 400,000 Chinese tourists are expected this week, NHK reported, out of 10 million expected to visit the country over the entire year.
At airports and shops, staff have been advised to wear face masks while serving customers, something usually considered inappropriate for customer-facing employees. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said airlines coming into Japan had been asked to distribute health surveys and advise customers to report symptoms, while checks had also been stepped up for customers arriving by cruise ship.
Some politicians and commentators worried the virus might disrupt the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the summer, but the organizers tried to downplay concerns.
“We consider taking measures against infectious diseases constitutes an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure games,” the Olympic organizers said in a statement, vowing to work closely with the authorities to discuss necessary measures.
One candy store owner in the town of Hakone, which is west of Tokyo, isn’t taking any chances, putting up a sign in Chinese telling people from that country they were “banned” from entering his store, the Asahi newspaper reported.
Fears are also mounting for 710 Japanese nationals in Wuhan, NHK reported.
By Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi
January 25, 2020 at 8:42 AM EST
Lunar New Year festivities carry on around U.S. despite virus fears
A small number of people in the crowd wore face masks — not out of the ordinary for this Chinatown in Queens on any given day. But what was fresh was the rat merchandise, which was everywhere: rat balloons, toy rats, decorative red sheets with rats. Stores displayed posters in their front windows of cartoon rats in anticipation for the Year of the Rat, which begins Saturday. Slender green stalks with red flowers were popular, too.
Lin Feng smoked a cigarette as he worked a stall, selling red posters and stuffed toy rats outside an open-air store on Main Street. Business was brisk. “Everybody is coming home,” he said, referring to the Lunar New Year travelers.
The street would be different Saturday, with many shops closed — the shopping crowds replaced by families watching the New Year’s parade. Feng’s family from China was visiting the United States and arrived without incident. When asked what he thought of the Chinese response to the coronavirus, Feng said, approvingly, “Wuhan is closed. The government has made it hard to travel.”
By Ben Guarino
January 25, 2020 at 8:10 AM EST
‘Level one’ alerts across China
Across the country, Chinese authorities have canceled the temple fairs and festivals that normally accompany the nation’s biggest holiday, while the Forbidden City in Beijing, the most popular sections of the Great Wall and Shanghai Disneyland are all closed to visitors.
Twenty-four provinces and municipalities around China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Xinjiang, with a combined population of 1.2 billion people, have announced the highest level of emergency response to try to control the spread of the virus.
The level one protocol allows local governments to mobilize personnel, materials and means of transportation for the emergency response, temporarily requisition housing, enforce regional blockades, suspend mass activities, close businesses, factories and schools, quarantine patients, fix prices and punish rumormongers, speculators and manufacturers of fake products.
Starbucks announced the temporary closure of its cafes around Wuhan “in order to protect the health and safety of our customers, partners and their families,” while McDonalds closed five restaurants around Hubei.
By Simon Denyer
January 25, 2020 at 8:00 AM EST
Free taxis amid car ban in Wuhan
In Wuhan, the source and center of the outbreak, the streets were decorated with red lanterns but largely deserted on New Year’s Eve — usually a night for banquets, dragon dances and fireworks, state broadcaster CCTV reported. The city banned private vehicles from entering the city center beginning at midnight Saturday and assigned 6,000 taxis to provide free rides.
The few people who ventured out wore face masks and consciously stayed away from each other.
By Simon Denyer
January 25, 2020 at 7:45 AM EST
Hong Kong quiet and on alert
Across Hong Kong, where streets were quiet because of the holiday, almost everyone wore surgical masks. Some gyms have mandated temperature checks, and subway stations have erected signs advising passengers on public hygiene.
In 2003, Hong Kong was one of the worst affected regions by the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which killed 286 people including eight medical staff members. Some medical experts and pro-democracy lawmakers have been urging the government to act more quickly and had been calling for transport links to Wuhan to be cut for over a week.
Yuen Kwok-yung at the University of Hong Kong, a microbiologist who played a key role in discovering SARS, warned Saturday that Hong Kong was facing its “last window of opportunity” to contain the spread of the disease and urged everyone to wear surgical masks.
But the shutdowns and lockdowns are unlikely to prevent the disease continuing to spread around China and the world, experts said.
China has reported 1,287 confirmed cases of the virus, with the youngest a 2-year-old girl in Guangxi province, and another 8,420 people under observation. But experts say the actual number of infections is likely to be much higher.
By Shibani Mahtani
January 25, 2020 at 7:00 AM EST
Cases spread to Europe, Australia and U.S.
Three cases have been confirmed in France, two in the United States and one in Australia, all in patients who had recently traveled to China. There have also been cases in Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
In the United States, at least 50 people are under observation for the illness in 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after two patients, a man in his 30s from Snohomish County, Wash., and a woman who lives in Chicago were both confirmed as infected on Tuesday and Friday, respectively. Authorities are monitoring 50 of the man’s contacts for signs of infection.
Although the outbreak is a “very serious public-health threat, the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday.
By Simon Denyer
January 25, 2020 at 6:50 AM EST
Studies focus on possible animal-to-human origins
A study confirmed the disease was a new form of coronavirus, which is closest to the SARS-related coronaviruses found in Chinese horseshoe bats. Like the SARS epidemic, which was traced to masked palm civets sold at a wildlife market, the study said the disease was connected to a wet market where game animals and meat were sold.
Wildlife activists and medical experts have long argued that China needs to shut down the trade in endangered and wild animals for game meat, as they represent a potential source of disease.
Microbiologist Yuen, one of the study’s authors, said the wild animal or game meat trade had obviously been rekindled since 2003, something he called “understandable” because changing a country’s food culture is always difficult. But he called for China to regulate its markets better.
“The lesson of this major epidemic is that the life, ecosystem and habitat of wild life must be respected,” he said in an email. “If we infringe into their habitats to the extent of farming and trading them, the viruses of different wild life can come together with genetic exchanges which can lead to jumping from animal into human and spread from human to human.
“The price of such epidemic is staggering and this should not be allowed to happen again.”
In an accompanying comment in the Lancet, experts called the virus “of global health concern,” adding “we need to be wary of the current outbreak turning into a sustained epidemic or even a pandemic.”
By Simon Denyer