China coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong declares emergency and closes schools
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Saturday her government is raising its response level to the highest level – emergency – and closing schools for two weeks, as authorities rush to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The outbreak, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has left 56 people dead in China. The country’s National Health Commission says there are 1,975 confirmed cases.
Wuhan has been locked down for days, with public transportation halted and flights and trains out of the city suspended. More than a dozen cities across China have been locked down, affecting more than 50 million people, The Associated Press reports.
Despite efforts to prevent the outbreak from spreading, cases have cropped up overseas. The U.S. confirmed a second case of coronavirus on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 63 people in 22 states are being monitored for possible infection.
Authorities believe the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms, moved into the human population from an infected animal at a market in Wuhan. Chinese health officials and the World Health Organization confirmed this week that the virus has been transmitted person-to-person, but it remains unclear how easy it is to contract from another infected individual.
Test results negative for coronavirus for North Carolina patient
Test results for a patient in North Carolina who was thought to possibly be infected with the novel coronavirus came back negative Saturday. The testing was carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are pleased that test results were negative and that the patient remains in good health,” state epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said. “We are working with CDC and local partners to be sure we are prepared to detect and respond to any possible cases that might occur in North Carolina in the future.”
A press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services noted that most respiratory illnesses suffered this time of year are from either the flu or the common cold.
Death toll in China rises to 56
The number of coronavirus-related deaths in China has climbed to 56, state media reported on Saturday. Hubei Province also reported 323 new cases on Saturday.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) January 26, 2020
“Presumptive positive” case of coronavirus found in Canada
The first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus has been detected in Canada, Ontario’s chief medical officer announced Saturday. A man in his 50s, who traveled to Wuhan, China, became “quite ill” within a day of his return. The Ontario Ministry of Health says they are “95% sure” the man contracted coronavirus, but are waiting for further confirmation of their test results.
The patient is currently being treated at Sunnybrook Hospital in Ontario and is in stable condition, according to the ministry.
France looking to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan amid lockdown
French and Chinese officials are looking at “eventual options that would allow our nationals who wish to leave” the city of Wuhan, France’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday. The Chinese city is now on lockdown to contain the virus, making evacuation of foreign nationals difficult.
The French consulate would not say how many French citizens are currently in Wuhan, but said it is in constant contact with them.
France reported the first three European coronavirus patients on Friday.
Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpaneh, a leading French expert who heads Paris’ Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital’s infectious diseases unit, told The Associated Press that two of the patients are a couple from Wuhan, who developed symptoms after arriving in France.
The third patient is being treated at a hospital in Bordeaux. All three are doing “very well,” according to the head of France’s health department, Jerome Salomon.
Beginning Sunday, medical teams will be stationed at France’s airports to help passengers arriving from China with any questions, concerns, or medical needs.
– Associated Press
People in Chicago’s Chinatown cancel Chinese New Year plans
CBS Chicago reports that people canceled their Chinese New Year plans and were taking extra precautions – the Walgreens in the city’s Chinatown was completely out of face masks by 10 a.m. Friday.
A case of the virus was confirmed this week in Chicago, one of only two so far in the United States.
Local business owner Huan Wang said that with the confirmed case, many were changing their plans.
“My friend who has a restaurant down the street, he was planning on having 40 people come in today, but actually they called him to say the table will be canceled. Because some people got sick or some people are afraid of going out,” he said.
He said they were taking special precautions, too, more than doubling their cleaning and sanitizing regimen in the restaurant.
While he believes there’s no reason to be afraid, he understand the concerns about a virus we still don’t know a lot about.
“I do understand that people might be a little afraid of going out,” Wang said. “They don’t know where they should go, what they should worry about.”
China’s president calls situation grave
China’s President Xi Jinping called the accelerating spread of the virus a grave situation. He made the remarks, reported by state broadcaster CCTV, at a meeting of Communist Party leaders that convened on the Lunar New Year holiday and underlined the government’s urgent and ever-expanding efforts to bring the situation under control.
Travel agencies have been told to halt all group tours, the state-owned China Daily reported, citing the China Association of Travel Services.
– Associated Press
Lunar New Year festivities canceled across mainland China
Lunar New Year festivities were canceled across mainland China on Saturday and scaled back in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong as authorities sought to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Major tourist sites and movie theaters were shuttered in China. Beijing canceled all temple fairs, a popular tradition in northern China with performances, games for children and booths selling snacks and New Year’s-themed souvenirs.
The Forbidden City in Beijing, Shanghai Disneyland and a major safari park are among the tourist destinations that have closed indefinitely.
A fireworks show and four-day carnival were canceled in Hong Kong.
– Associated Press