China Scrambles to Contain New Coronavirus as It Spreads Further and Death Toll Rises

January 26, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020
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Chinese authorities are struggling to contain a viral outbreak that originated from the central city of Wuhan, as the death toll and number of confirmed cases continue climbing daily.

The United States also reported a new case on Saturday, as health officials in Orange County, California, confirmed the third case of viral pneumonia in the country. According to local broadcaster KTLA, the patient recently traveled to Wuhan.

Macau confirmed three new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to five, while South Korea added a third case.

Hong Kong also reported a new case, bringing the total to six, as local theme parks, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced temporary closures beginning on Jan. 26. Hong Kong pop singer Andy Lau has also canceled his 12 concerts scheduled to be held from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28.

In the mainland, Beijing announced that the country would suspend all wild animal trade beginning on Jan. 26, in an effort to cut off possible virus transmission routes.

Health authorities in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, suspect that the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) responsible for the viral outbreak originated from a fresh food market where wild animals were sold, such as porcupines and snakes.

The decision to suspend wild animal trade was made jointly by three different government agencies: the State Administration for Market Regulation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, according to the announcement.

On Jan. 26 afternoon, the State Council Information Office held a press conference during which Ma Xiaowei, minister of China’s National Health Commission stated that the central government has earmarked 1 billion yuan (about $144 million) to support Hubei Province’s efforts to fight the outbreak.

Additionally, Ma stated that 7 medical teams comprising of 900 people have been sent to Wuhan, while a team of 450 from China’s military, called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), have arrived in the city.

Ma added that the first week of the Chinese Lunar Year holiday—which kicked off on Saturday—would be key to stemming the disease from spreading outside Wuhan.

Local governments are scrambling to contain the disease. In Tianjin, Shandong Province, and Xi’an, the capital of central China’s Shaanxi Province, authorities have announced plans to halt trans-provincial and trans-municipal bus and taxi services.

In southern China’s Guangdong Province, health officials are now requiring people to wear facial masks at public facilities, such as restaurants, hotels, markets, and libraries. Those who fail to comply could be punished in accordance with Chinese law, according to the Guangdong government announcement.

As the situation in Wuhan worsens, multiple countries around the world have also announced measures to evacuate their citizens from the city, including the United States, Russia, and France.

On Sunday, Japan’s foreign ministry began making arrangements with Chinese authorities to evacuate Japanese nationals in Wuhan, according to Japanese media NHK. There are roughly about 700 Japanese living there.

Meanwhile, the Macau government will ban people who have been to Wuhan in the last 14 days from entering local casinos, beginning on Monday, according to Hong Kong media.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer