These updates are from Jan. 26. For updates on Jan. 27, click here.
6:00 a.m. UTC—Mongolia Shuts Universities, Border Crossings to Halt Virus Spread
Mongolia has closed from Monday until March 2 all universities and educational institutes to contain the spread of a deadly coronavirus sweeping China, state media Montsame said, citing a cabinet meeting.
It has also closed border crossings for auto vehicles and pedestrian traffic, from Monday, and called for all public gatherings to be canceled.
5:01 a.m. UTC—China Extends Lunar New Year Holiday to Contain Virus as Death Toll Rises
Beijing has announced it is extending the Lunar New Year holiday by three days to Feb. 2 given the coronavirus crisis across the country.
Meanwhile, China’s financial magazine Caixin has reported that the director of Wuhan’s religious and ethnic affairs bureau has died after becoming infected with the new coronavirus. Wang Xianliang, 62, died in afternoon on Jan. 26 and is the first government official to die from the outbreak.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization said on Sunday he was en route to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials and health experts for a meeting on the coronavirus response so far.
“I am on my way to Beijing, [China] to meet with the Government & health experts supporting the [coronavirus] response. My [WHO] colleagues & I would like to understand the latest developments & strengthen our partnership with [China] in providing further protection against the outbreak,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
“We are working 24/7 to support [China] & its people during this difficult time & remain in close contact with affected countries, with our regional & country offices deeply involved. [WHO] is updating all countries on the situation & providing specific guidance on what to do to respond.”
So far, the WHO has not declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a global health emergency. The SARS-like virus has since spread to more than ten other countries.
The mortality rate of the disease remains unclear at this stage, and fluctuates as China releases new information. On Jan. 23, the WHO released an estimated mortality rate of 4 percent (17 of 557 cases). The youngest victim was a 36-year-old man in Wuhan.
Unlike SARS, 2019-nCoV is infectious during its incubation period, which can last up to 14 days, China’s health minister, Ma Xiaowei, told reporters Sunday. Symptoms of 2019-nCoV can anywhere from 2 to 14 days after the first exposure.
9 p.m. UTC—Another US Case Confirmed
The Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed the latest case, saying the patient is a student at Arizona State University who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China—the virus epicenter where hundreds cases and dozens of deaths have been confirmed.
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona state health agency “are currently investigating to identify any close contacts that may have been exposed while the person was infectious,” a statement reads. “Any individuals who have been identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly. These individuals will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms in collaboration with public health and the university.”
Four other U.S. cases have been confirmed so far.
7:15 p.m. UTC—4th Case Confirmed in US
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the fourth coronavirus case in the United States and the first in the county.
There is no immediate threat to the public, said the agency, but it added that Los Angeles residents need to “practice good public health hygiene.”
“Health is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal, state and local agencies to monitor this novel coronavirus that has emerged from Wuhan, China, over the past few weeks. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available,” the department said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
The person who is infected had recently traveled to the United States from Wuhan, China—the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
The other cases were confirmed in Illinois, Washington state, and Orange County, California.
6:17 p.m. UTC—Southwest Removes Sick Passenger
Southwest Airlines confirmed it removed a sick passenger from one of its flights and said it was done out of an abundance of caution in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement on Sunday to Fox News, a spokesman said that “local medical personnel met Flight 2889 once it arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from Las Vegas on Saturday due to reports of an ill customer.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, and in light of the recent concerns of the coronavirus, our crew followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control for responding to concerns to ensure the customer, and those traveling with them, receive the assistance or support they may need,” the statement added. According to local station NBC4, the passenger was taken to a medical facility for evaluation, and it’s not confirmed whether the person has the illness. The person was later released, officials said.
The NBC affiliate reported that the person had recently traveled to China and had flu-like symptoms.
5 p.m. UTC—Official: Virus Can Spread Before Symptoms Show
China’s health minister, Ma Xiaowei, told reporters Sunday the coronavirus is contagious during its incubation period, which can last up to 14 days.
“The outbreak is expected to continue for some time,” he said. Ma noted that the coronavirus is infectious during its incubation period, unlike SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which killed hundreds of people in China in the early 2000s.
Ma added that containment efforts would be intensified after officials placed lockdowns on Wuhan and other Chinese cities in an attempt to curb the spreading of the virus.
“This is a game-changer,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN about Ma’s update. “It means the infection is much more contagious than we originally thought,” said Schaffner, who is an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “This is worse than we anticipated.”
4 p.m. UTC—Hong Kong Bans Hubei Travelers
Hong Kong will bar all residents of Hubei Province from entering the city and anyone who had visited there in the past 14 days amid the outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, is considered the epicenter of the recent outbreak.
In a statement Sunday, the government said it will implement the ban starting from midnight. Hong Kong will ban any person who has been to Hebei in the past two weeks “until further notice.”
“Hidden patients have greatly increased the difficulty of preventing and controlling the [virus] epidemic,” the statement continued.
Hong Kong authorities also announced Sunday there were eight total cases in the city, reported the South China Morning Post.
3 p.m. UTC—Ban on Wildlife Trade in China
Chinese regime officials announced a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals following the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
Officials will “strengthen inspections and severely investigate and punish those who are found in violation of the provisions of this announcement,” according to a ban, reported The Associated Press. It said three government agencies issued the warning Sunday.
Now, no wildlife can be transported or sold in markets or over the Internet. To punish people, Chinese regime officials will send suspected violators to security services, and their properties will be closed and sealed off, AP reported.
“If these markets persist, and human consumption of illegal and unregulated wildlife persists, then the public will continue to face heightened risks from emerging new viruses, potentially more lethal and the source of future pandemic spread,” Christian Walzer, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told AP. “These are perfect laboratories for creating opportunities for these viruses to emerge.”
2:45 p.m. UTC—US Confirms 3rd Case in S. California
A Southern California patient is the third person in the United States to be diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which confirmed the person is a traveler from Wuhan.
The person was identified in Santa Ana, located near Los Angeles, in Orange County.
The Orange County Health Care Agency said the person is in isolation at the hospital and is in good condition.
“The OC Health Care Agency’s (HCA) Communicable Disease Control Division received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this evening that an Orange County, California case has tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” the agency said in a statement.
With reporting from Reuters.