Precautions to curb the lung disease caused by a coronavirus are becoming increasingly drastic in China. On Friday, other towns in the particularly affected province of Hubei were cordoned off, with 43 million people now virtually quarantined.
The highest alert level was also declared in other parts of the country the day before the Chinese New Year.
In addition to Hubei, the alert level has also been raised in Hunan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Anhui and Tianjin provinces, CNN television reported on Friday.
Extensive security measures have also been put in place for Beijing and Shanghai: in addition to the cancellation of all major New Year celebrations, tourist attractions such as Beijing’s Forbidden City and Disneyworld in Shanghai have been closed.
There was a lot of activity, as pictures of long queues of people from the center of Shanghai show, but in front of shops selling protective masks.
Level I, the highest level of a public health emergency, allows authorities to regulate daily needs such as water, electricity, and food.
Officials can also take preventive measures against hoarding medical and protective agents and against price-driving: in the areas currently most affected by the coronavirus in The province of Hubei, for example, protective masks are already in short supply.
Military operation launched in Wuhan
According to the AP news agency, several hospitals in Wuhan, the starting point for lung disease, called for donations of masks, glasses, coats and other medical protective equipment.
There are also reports of fundraising appeals from the nearby metropolis of Huanggang, which is also largely closed off.
In response to the public health emergency, the military is now also in action. In Wuhan, according to state TV, the logistics department of the military commission took the lead over the “joint control work”. In addition, medical personnel of the military is mobilized for the fight against lung disease.
It began with 40 medical personnel from Wuhan’s military hospital, who had been sent to the intensive care unit of the city’s lung disease hospital.
China is looking for reinforcements nationwide to support the medical staff in Wuhan, which appears to be increasingly reaching its limits, according to a media report.
More than 400 medics and aid workers were sent to Wuhan from Shanghai alone, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported on Friday. A first 135-member group is expected to leave soon, according to the statement.
A new hospital with around 1,000 beds
In the city with the most deaths and illnesses, a new hospital with around 1,000 beds has been built in a fast-track procedure since Thursday.
Construction equipment, including 35 excavators and 10 bulldozers, had already arrived at the construction site in Wuhan’s southwestern Cadian district on Thursday, the Reuters news agency reported, citing the Changjiang Daily newspaper.
According to the information, the building complex with prefabricated elements in modular format will be built. The procedure is reminiscent of the fight against SARS – at that time a hospital was also built in Beijing in a fast-track procedure.
The hospital complex, which is now under construction in Wuhan, is to be raised in a few days – it is to be completed by 3 February at the latest, the AP news agency reported, citing the city administration. The metropolis, which has a population of around eleven million, is considered to be the starting point for the lung disease emanating from a novel coronavirus.
Empty streets in Wuhan
Chinese authorities had quarantined Wuhan on Thursday. Air and train services from the city were largely halted. Chinese state media reported that the highway toll booths near Wuhan were closed, cutting off road exits.
In addition, the public is obliged to wear protective masks. Those who do not wear masks in hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and parks will be punished, the China Daily newspaper reported. According to observers, the city increasingly resembles a ghost town. “This year we have a very scary New Year,” a taxi driver told the AFP news agency: “Because of the virus, people are not going out of the house.”
More and more cities closed off
However, similar images are emerging from more and more other cities: after Jingzhou (5.6 million inhabitants), Xiaogan (five million inhabitants) and Dangyang (470,000 inhabitants), the metropolises of Yichang (four million inhabitants) and Tianmen (1.7 million) were also found on Friday. public transport and trains to other places stopped.
In the fight against the spread of lung disease, strict restrictions have already been imposed in about a dozen cities in Hubei province alone. In addition to long-distance transport, public transport is also affected. In the 2.4 million cities of Huangshi, for example, the ferry port and a bridge over the Yangtze River were also closed.
Number of deaths rises again
According to new figures from the Chinese government, the death toll from the virus in China rose by eight to 26. 24 of these deaths were recorded in Hubei, two more in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which is bordering Russia, and the northern province of Hebei.
The number of confirmed infected people rose to 888 in China on Friday and 899 worldwide, according to Chinese media reports.
A further 1,072 cases of the disease are suspected to have been caused by the virus, the health committee told the Chinese government. These cases are still being investigated.
WHO: No “emergency” yet
Individual cases of the virus have also been reported from other countries, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States, as well as Vietnam since Friday.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) refrained from calling the international health emergency at a crisis meeting. So far, there is “no evidence” outside China of transmission of the pathogen from person to person, SAID WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The Emergency Committee recommended further improving the exchange of information between states, as SAID WHO Chairman Didier Houssin. However, the members of the emergency committee were not in agreement on the assessment of the situation.
An official emergency would have led to further concrete recommendations to states to contain the spread across borders as much as possible.
Such recommendations may include, for example, checking travelers for disease symptoms and better protecting medical staff.
Train tickets will be refunded
It is believed that the source of the coronavirus was a wild animal at a market in Wuhan. According to experts, it was first transmitted from animals to humans before the virus adapted to its new host and transmissions between humans.
With the wave of travel to the Chinese New Year, the risk of a spread of the viral disease is growing. Several hundred million Chinese travels in the country’s largest annual wave of travel.
The State Department sees a “high-security risk” in Hubei province and advises against travel that is unnecessary.
Fearing an epidemic, the authorities want to restrict travel. Rail tickets already purchased will be refunded nationwide, according to the state-owned Railway Company China State Railway Group (CR).
The new virus belongs to the same species as the one that triggered the SARS pandemic in 2002/2003. At that time, about 800 people were killed. The new virus is said to be a more harmless variant. SARS viruses are among the coronaviruses that often cause harmless diseases such as colds. However, this also includes pathogens of dangerous respiratory diseases such as MERS. A pandemic is a cross-country and continental spread of an infectious disease.