China locks down cities and transports to curb virus outbreak

27 Mars, 2020, 05:22 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
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The city of Wuhan, considered the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, is in lockdown.

As always, when something of this magnitude happens, there will be a lot of information doing the rounds.

The current virus is a relative of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which saw an outbreak in 2002 and 2003, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which had an outbreak in 2012. We've put together some of the most important things you need to know. Coronaviruses can jump from animals to humans, and the SARS outbreak was eventually linked to horseshoe bats living in Yunnan Province in southwest China.

Research published on Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Virology, which used analysis of the protein codes favoured by the new coronavirus, suggested it may have been snakes at the market that passed the virus to humans.

China has also closed several tourism attractions and cultural sites including Beijing's Forbidden City, which saw 19 million visitors past year.

Screening has now been expanded to two more airports: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Chicago O'Hare.

Adrian Brown has more from Hong Kong. The latest affected countries are Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.

"When you have this viral soup and you have a collection of pigs, poultry and bats as you had in that market in Wuhan it's a ideal incubator of diseases", he said. Now, Wuhan, the city at the heart of the epidemic has locked down its population of 11 million and is not allowing them to travel.

And residents in Huanggang, 45 miles away, have also been told not to leave the city other than under special circumstances.

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There is evidence that the virus is passing from person to person. According to Gulf News approximately 1,400 people are now under medical observation due to symptoms that might mean they are carrying the virus.

"All our Global Positioning System and hospitals across the country have had a letter from the chief medical officer and the medical director at NHS England and us at Public Health England, so that if somebody does present and they are anxious, if they do meet our criteria, that they will be put somewhere where they won't infect other people while they're assessed and while we can get them tested".

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, sneezing and coughing.

The 17 people who died in China were aged from 48 to 89, and had pre-existing health conditions, Chinese health authorities precised Thursday.

The patient is being looked at as a precautionary measure, with tests to rule out the coronavirus expected to take several days.

The symptoms appear to be less aggressive than those of SARS.

Neighboring Huanggang and the city of Ezhou have also had a number of services shut down.

"It's hard to compare this disease with SARS", said Zhong Nanshan, a scientist at China's National Health Commission at a press conference this week. "But it has not yet become a global health emergency". The two cities have a combined population of around two million people.

The city's tourism and culture department cancelled all group tours until February 8, according to state media, as well as all large public events for the Lunar New Year holiday. Countless travelers will have also left Wuhan between the time of the first known infection and the enforcement of the travel ban. The mysterious virus is thought to have originated in one of the city's fish markets. The market has been closed since January.

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