Friday 24 January 2020
Wuhan in lockdown in an attempt to curb Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Hector Retamal / AFP

Wuhan city – with an estimated population of 11 million people – “temporarily” closed its airport and railway stations on Thursday for departing passengers, and all public transport services have also been suspended until further notice. Transport authorities also shut down some of the main highways leaving Wuhan, according to state news agency Xinhua.

And yet, the World Health Organization said the Wuhan Coronavirus – scientifically known as 2019-nCoV – is yet to constitute a global health emergency. “Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency,” comments WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during an emergency meeting in Geneva. “It may yet become one.”

According to the WHO, while the disease has reached beyond China, the number of cases in other countries is still relatively small. Agency officials comment that the disease does not seem to be spreading within those countries: of more than 800 cases now reported, the wide majority – and all the first 25 deaths – have been in China.

Unprecedented measures to rein the virus spread

China has efficiently quarantined nearly 20 million people across Wuhan and other neighbouring cities. Measures to curb the disease nationwide was announced as hundreds of millions of people began travelling across the country for the Lunar New Year holiday.

According to BBC, these are the reported efforts done by areas around Wuhan:

  1. 1) Huanggang, a city east of Wuhan, suspended bus and rail services and encouraged people not to leave the city. Cafes, cinemas, theatres, and exhibitions are also being shut.
  2. 2) Ezhou, which is south of Huanggang, has shut its train stations.
  3. 3) Xiantao has cancelled gathering, suspended transport and set up temperature detection stations.
  4. 4) Chibi and Lichuan are suspending transport.

Rush to find its source

Using samples of the virus isolated from patients, scientists in China, Hong Kong, Germany and other countries are trying to determine and confirm the origin of the virus. This is needed to provide insights for developing prevention and treatment protocols.

Reports state that most of the first group of patients hospitalised were workers or customers at a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan that sold processed meats and live consumable animals. This includes poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles.

This Wuhan Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak stands as a reminder that people should limit the consumption of wild animals to prevent zoonotic infections.

Source: SCMP, NY Times