Coronavirus can be halted | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:58 PM, February 06, 2020

Coronavirus can be halted

Says WHO; More Chinese cities locked down; 10 on quarantined cruise ship infected

The world has a “window of opportunity” to halt the spread of coronavirus, global health experts said, as the number of people infected in China jumped to 25,000 and millions more were ordered to stay indoors.

The confirmed death toll in mainland China rose to 492 after hardest-hit Hubei province reported 65 more people had died.

More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency, several governments to institute travel restrictions, and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.

But the WHO said Tuesday that dramatic measures taken by China offered a chance to halt transmission.

“While 99 percent of cases are in China, in the rest of the world we only have 176 cases,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“That doesn’t mean that it won’t get worse. But for sure we have a window of opportunity to act,” he said.

He urged all health ministers to improve data-sharing on coronavirus immediately and said he would send a team of international experts to work with Chinese counterparts.

“Of the 176 cases reported outside China so far, WHO has received complete case report forms for only 38 percent,” he said.

The WHO’s statement came as Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand all reported new infections not imported from China.

And yesterday Japanese authorities said at least 10 passengers on a cruise ship carrying 3,711 people have the virus.

Thousands of passengers and crew on another cruise ship that docked in Hong Kong were being kept on board yesterday while they were tested for a coronavirus as the city government said that all visitors from mainland China would be quarantined for two weeks, reports Reuters.

In a sign of growing concern about a spread to other densely-populated Chinese metropolitan areas, millions more people have been ordered to stay indoors.

In Hangzhou, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Shanghai, fences blocked streets near the headquarters of Chinese tech giant Alibaba -- one of the world’s most valuable companies -- as a fighter jet circled overhead.

The building appeared to be shut down, while deliverymen moved in and out of nearby fenced-in residential areas to drop off groceries. Many people were also seen going out.

At least three other cities in Zhejiang province -- Taizhou, Wenzhou and parts of Ningbo -- have imposed the same measures, affecting 18 million people.

Similar restrictions have been put in place as far away as Heilongjiang province on the Russia border, and in the central city of Zhumadian authorities said one person would be allowed to leave each household only every five days.

Residents of the city of seven million were also offered cash rewards for informing on people from neighbouring Hubei who were in the city.

Vietnam, which has detected 10 cases, joined a growing list of countries banning arrivals from China, and it was setting up field hospitals with thousands of beds to handle a potential spike in coronavirus patients in the country.

Italy announced that passengers from every international flight would be scanned for fevers, reports AFP.

Britain’s Foreign Office said late on Tuesday that it will charter another civilian aircraft to help British nationals and their dependents leave China’s Wuhan for the UK on Sunday.

United and American Airlines said yesterday they have added Hong Kong to their China flight suspensions.

The disease is believed to have emerged in December in a Wuhan market that sold wild animals, and spread rapidly as people travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday in January.

China’s Ministry of Public Security said “political security” was the “top priority” in confronting the epidemic.

“We should take strict precautions against and crack down on all kinds of disruptive activities by hostile forces,” ministry secretary Zhao Kezhi said in a briefing.

The statement came days after the top leadership admitted “shortcomings” in its handling of the outbreak, for which authorities have been criticised for withholding information. 

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