Shanghai - More than 2,000 people globally
have been infected with a new coronavirus, the vast majority of
them in China, where 56 people have died from the disease,
according to figures released on Sunday.
President Xi Jinping said during a politburo meeting on
Saturday that China was facing a "grave situation", as
health authorities around the world scrambled to prevent a
The virus, believed to have originated late last year in a
seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that was
illegally selling wildlife, has spread to Chinese cities
including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States,
Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France and Canada.
The World Health Organisation this week stopped short of
calling the outbreak a global health emergency, but some health
experts question whether China can continue to contain the
On Sunday, China confirmed 1,975 cases of patients infected
with the new coronavirus as of Jan. 25, while the death toll
from the virus has risen to 56, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The outbreak has prompted widening curbs on movements within
China, with Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on virtual lockdown,
with transports links all-but severed except for emergency
The US State Department said on Sunday it will relocate
personnel at its Wuhan consulate to the United States and will
offer a limited number of seats to private U.S. citizens on a
January 28 flight to San Francisco.
Health authorities in Beijing urged people not to shake
hands but instead salute using a traditional cupped-hand
gesture. The advice was sent in a text message that went out to
mobile phone users in the city on Sunday morning.
On Saturday, Canada declared the first "presumptive"
confirmed case of the virus in a resident who had returned from
Wuhan. The patient, a male in his 50s, arrived in Toronto on
Jan. 22 and was hospitalised the next day after developing
symptoms of respiratory illness, officials said.
The outbreak has overshadowed the start of the Lunar New
Year, which is typically a festive time of year, with public
events cancelled and many tourist sites shut. Many people on
social media have been calling for the week-long holiday to be
extended to help prevent further spread of the virus.
A man wears a face mask as he rides a nearly empty subway train near the Shanghai Disney Resort, which announced that it will be closed indefinitely. Picture: Fu Ting/AP
Transportation curbs continued to widen, with the northern
city of Tianjin to shut all inter-province shuttle buses from
January 27, the official People's Daily reported on Sunday. It will
halt all group tours, both at home and abroad, from Monday.
On Saturday, Hong Kong declared a virus emergency, scrapped
celebrations and restricted links to mainland China, while
Australia confirmed its first four cases, Malaysia confirmed
four and France reported Europe's first cases on Friday.
The United States was arranging a charter flight on Sunday
to bring its citizens and diplomats back from Wuhan, the central
Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak, the Wall Street
In Hong Kong, with five confirmed cases, the city's leader
Carrie Lam said flights and high speed rail trips between the
city and Wuhan will be halted. Schools in Hong Kong that are
currently on Lunar New Year holidays will remain closed until
Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park closed on Sunday "out of
consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast
"We are in close contact with health authorities and the
government about the situation and will announce a reopening
date once they determine it is advisable," the park said in a
Shanghai Disneyland, which expected 100,000 visitors daily
through the Lunar New Year holidays, has already closed.
Many cinemas across China are also closed with major film
premieres postponed, slashing revenues.
According to data from Chinese movie-ticketing company
Maoyan, owned by China’s on-demand service giant
Meituan Dianping, China's cinemas earned 1.81 million
yuan from movie tickets on January 25, down more than 99% from
1.46 billion yuan on the Lunar New Year Day in 2019.
The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because
there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how
dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can
cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.
There are fears transmission could accelerate as hundreds of
millions of Chinese travel during the holiday, although many
have cancelled their plans and airlines and railways in China
are providing full refunds for tickets.
Airports around the world have stepped up screening of
passengers from China, although some health officials and
experts have questioned the effectiveness of such screenings.
In an illustration of how such efforts could miss cases,
doctors at a Paris hospital said two of the three Chinese
nationals in France who have been diagnosed with the virus had
arrived in the country without showing any symptoms.
A report by infectious disease specialists at Imperial
College, London on Saturday said the epidemic "represents a
clear and ongoing global health threat," adding: "It is
uncertain at the current time whether it is possible to contain
the continuing epidemic within China."
Wuhan is building two new hospitals with a combined 2,300
beds to treat patients.