Deadly coronavirus is MUCH more contagious than feared: Medics confirm the disease that has killed 18 can be spread by COUGHING – as Singapore, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia become latest countries to confirm cases
- SARS-like disease first reported in China before spreading to Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and US
- Major Chinese New Year events in Beijing have been cancelled, officials at the Chinese capital revealed today
- Today it emerged the infected US patient came into close contact with at least 16 people before quarantined
- Official figures show more than 600 patients have caught the infection, with cases cropping up all over Asia
- However, scientists yesterday warned as many as 10,000 people could have been infected in Wuhan alone
- Chilling footage has emerged from city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s centre, showing quarantine tents and entire streets pumped with decontamination gas. Two neighbouring cities have also gone into lockdown
- European health officials said ‘further global spread is likely’ in a report, but World Health Organization meeting last night failed to declare the crisis a global emergency. Heath chiefs will meet again today
The deadly new coronavirus spreading across Asia is far more contagious than previously feared and can be spread third-hand via a simple cough or sneeze, medics have today confirmed.
Eighteen people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 600 have been infected in at least 10 countries. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be as many as 10,000 as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.
Nine towns and cities in China are now in lockdown while officials battle to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. Major Chinese New Year events in Beijing have been cancelled, authorities in Ezhou have shut down train stations, and Huanggang has announced it will suspend public buses and trains.
The development comes as Wuhan – the city at the centre of the outbreak – remains in lockdown, with all flights in and outbound cancelled, residents banned from leaving and scenes of chaos as desperate families fight for food supplies.
Chinese officials are disinfecting whole streets and parks with clouds of gas and chilling footage has emerged of roadside quarantine tents, hastily erected to isolate suspected cases. One resident told the BBC the atmosphere in the city felt like ‘the end of the world’. Concerned medics were seen wheeling a suspected patient out of the airport in Fuzhou in south-eastern China in an elaborate see-through quarantine pod.
Singapore and Vietnam have today announced they have recorded cases of the infection.
In Singapore, a 66-year-old man who had flown from Wuhan with his family on Monday is recovering in hospital. A 37-year-old companion is also in hospital under observation but has not been diagnosed.
In Vietnam, a Chinese father a son are in hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after flying there from Wuhan and becoming ill. They are in ‘good condition’, according to Vietnamese authorities.
An Indian member of government had tweeted that an Indian nurse was being treated in Saudi Arabia but that has since turned out to be inaccurate – she instead had a similar virus called MERS.
This means the illness has now spread to nine countries, including the US, and European health officials fear the never-before-seen virus will reach the continent where the UK and other nations are already on high alert.
It was revealed today that an American man infected with the deadly virus – which Chinese officials have warned will mutate and become deadlier – came into close contact with at least 16 people before he was put in isolation.
The World Health Organization is facing increasing pressure to declare the crisis a public health emergency, like it has done for Ebola and Zika in the past. Health chiefs will meet again later today to make a final verdict.
In other developments announced today:
- Cases have now been reported in 25 provinces in China, with 608 patients now infected across the world (as at 17.55GMT on January 23)
- Patients suspected to have the infection are being tested in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada
- Technology giant Huawei has postponed its annual developer conference in China by more than a month following the outbreak of coronavirus
- Lunar New Year celebrations planned for Beijing this weekend have been cancelled over fears large gatherings may spread the virus
- Singapore became the eighth country to confirm it has a patient infected with the coronavirus
- Vietnam became the ninth country to confirm cases – a Chinese father and son are ‘in good condition’ in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City
- US authorities said at least 16 people are monitored in Washington State after coming into contact with a man there who is infected
- Social media has shown chaotic scenes in Wuhan, the London-sized Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, as it comes to the end of its first day in lockdown
- Wuhan’s Health Commission said the city is ‘witnessing a fast growing trend of fever patients’ and hospitals are facing bed shortages
Dr David Heymann, an infectious disease expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said today: ‘We are now seeing second and third generation spread,’ CNN reported.
Third generation spread means people are catching it from others who also caught it from a person, not the original animal source.
Dr Heymann added there is growing evidence that coughs or sneezes even close to someone could infect them, but there is no proof the virus is airborne.
No cases of coronavirus have been confirmed yet in the UK but medics at London Heathrow last night screened passengers landing from Wuhan.
And two people who travelled back from China recently are sick at a hospital in Scotland, but their condition is not known.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this morning that there is an ‘increased likelihood’ of there being a case in the UK but that the NHS is ‘ready to respond appropriately’.
In the US, authorities in Washington state are monitoring at least 16 people who they say had close contact with a man there who is recovering from coronavirus after catching it in China.
President Donald Trump insisted earlier this week that the country wasn’t concerned about the outbreak and added: ‘We have it totally under control. We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well.’
In China, the government is being forced to take more drastic measures and nine towns and cities home to more than 20million people are now effectively in quarantine.
Officials yesterday banned Wuhan’s 11million residents from travelling and ordered them to wear face masks in public to control the spread of the SARS-like infection.
Today it was announced that nearby cities of Ezhou and Huanggang – home to some one million and seven million, respectively, are taking similar steps.
Clips posted on Twitter claim to show the impact the unprecedented decision has had in Wuhan, with deserted streets reminiscent of the disaster film 28 Days Later.
Traffic has piled up on the city’s major roads, which have been blocked by police vans enforcing travel bans.
In one video an eerily quiet street is seen being ‘disinfected’, with billowing fumes filling the air, while another shows huge ‘quarantine tents’ lining a neighbourhood.
Another clip reportedly shows an airline passenger being wheeled out of an airport in a quarantine box, amid suspicions he has the coronavirus.
Wearing a protective suit, a mask and gloves, the man allegedly showed symptoms during screening and was isolated from other travellers.
Social media users complained that shops have bumped up the price of fresh produce and shoppers have been seen physically fighting a crowded supermarket.
China and other countries around the world have stepped up their defences against a virus which has already killed more than a dozen people.
Officials say at least 593 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, most of which (444 to date) are in China’s Hubei province.
But other countries have been infected, too – the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have confirmed cases, and suspected infections have cropped up in Mexico, Colombia and Canada.
The virus, which goes by the name of nCoV2019, emerged in Wuhan in December from a food market, and spread to other countries by travellers.
Wuhan has been put in lockdown ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, when thousands of people were expected to travel.
Chinese state media said Wuhan had its train stations and airport closed, while ferries and long-distance buses have also been stopped.
Twitter footage posted by @mxmbt2 shows traffic building up on a main highway.
He wrote: ‘[They] are not letting us leave Wuhan. The [highway] out of the city is blocked and we cannot leave. The [highway] to Xiaogan has been blocked. [The traffic] is jammed.’
Another video posted by @Dystopia992 shows police vans stopping cars from passing, causing gridlock traffic late at night.
Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops can be seen guarding the city’s train station, where metal barriers are blocking the entrances.
Most people are protecting themselves with face masks after local authorities demanded people do so in public places to stop the illness spreading.
One Twitter user, the BBC reported, said the threat of food shortages and disinfectant in the street made it feel like ‘the end of the world’.
Dr Martin Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the US’s Centers for Disease Control, described the US plan to control the spread of coronavirus following a media briefing confirming the first American case on Tuesday.
Given how quickly the virus has spread, Dr Cetron said the CDC has instructed the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Department to redirect anyone who tries to get from Wuhan to the US without going through any of those five airports.
Cetron described funneling as ‘a very complex process that involves reissuing tickets and rerouting passengers from all over the globe through connecting indirect flights’.
‘With increasing cases, we decided to move into this full-on, 100 percent coverage strategy, which means adding additional airports and … begin our funneling approach and redirect all the traffic to airports that have screening so that the benefit of the alert could be more completely covered,’ Cetron said.
CDC officials have also suggested the possibility of redirecting entire flights inbound from China through airports with screening checkpoints.
hen a traveler is sent for a screening in the US, they are first required to take a survey about possible symptoms, such as cough or fever, as well as whether they visited the meat or seafood markets in Wuhan that have been tied to the outbreak.
If they appear to have any symptoms associated with coronavirus, they are taken to on-site triage for further examination and a temperature check.
Two passengers flying from Shanghai on United Airlines were reportedly examined at O’Hare on Tuesday after appearing to show symptoms of coronavirus, the airline said.
It’s unclear what led officials to single out the passengers, but they were both cleared and released after examination.
‘We continue to follow CDC guidelines and remain in close contact with authorities in the United States and Asia to further ensure the safety of our customers and employees,’ a United spokesperson told CNBC.
President Donald Trump addressed the deadly new virus during remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, early Wednesday morning.
He praised the CDC’s rapid response and said the situation is being handled ‘very well’.
‘The CDC has been terrific, very great professionals. We’re in very good shape and I think China is in very good shape also,’ Trump said.
The president added in an interview with CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ that he was ‘not at all’ concerned about the possibility of a pandemic.
‘It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,’ he said.
‘We have it totally under control. We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well.’
The American man infected has not been named by CDC officials but is said to be a resident of Snahomish County, north of Seattle.
He is currently hospitalized and in ‘good’ condition but is being closely monitored in isolation.
The man traveled from Wuhan, but did not visit any of the markets at the epicenter of the outbreak, according to state health officials.
He arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – but not directly from Wuhan – on January 15, the day before screening was in place, and before he developed symptoms.
But he reportedly recognized his own symptoms – which typically include cough, fever and runny nose – after seeing online coverage of the virus.
The patient reached out to doctors on January 16, was tested on the 17th and his diagnosis was confirmed Monday, health officials said.
The patient is currently at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.
A top official at the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed Wednesday that human trials for a vaccine targeting 2019-nCoV could begin within three months.
Anthony S Fauci, the director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg Law that his agency is working with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc to develop the vaccine.
‘We’re already working on it,’ Fauci said. ‘And hopefully in a period of about three months, we’ll be able to start a phase I trial in humans.’
Fauci said his agency was also working with the WHO and CDC to obtain information about helping doctors around the world identify symptoms of coronavirus.
‘Obviously as is always the case when we have these outbreaks, it’s a lot of collaboration and synergy between the CDC and the WHO and the NIH,’ he said. ‘Our job ultimately is to develop countermeasures.’
Vaccine experts at Baylor University are also reportedly working on modifying a vaccine they designed to prevent SARS to protect against the new, related coronavirus.
But the school’s Dean of Tropical Medicine, which is developing the shot, Dr Peter Hotez, told DailyMail.com that it’s likely years away from deployment.
‘To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11million people is new to science,’ Gauden Galea, the World Health Organisation’s representative in China, told the Associated Press.
‘It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.’
An Oxford University expert yesterday said the outbreak so far has been ‘extraordinary’.
Dr Peter Horby said: ‘We haven’t seen this large-scale spread since Sars.’
Speaking about whether he thought the World Health Organization should declare it an international emergency, he added: ‘There are three criteria – one, is this an extraordinary event? Two, is it spreading internationally? Three, is an international response required? In my opinion all three of these have been met.’
Doctors in the UK have been told to leave the room straight away and shut their patient in if they think they might have the Chinese coronavirus.
Public Health England has issued official guidance for doctors as concerns grow that the contagious illness will make its way to the UK.
More than 600 people have now been infected in Asia and 18 have died. Health authorities and university experts say it is likely cases will appear in Europe and the UK.
No cases have been confirmed in the UK yet, but the Government last night screened patients arriving at Heathrow from the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, Wuhan.
At least 15 medical workers in Wuhan have become infected while treating patients with the virus.
The PHE guidance, which was issued to GP practice doctors this week, reads: ‘If [the Wuhan coronavirus] is considered possible when a consultation is already in progress, withdraw from the room, close the door and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
‘Avoid physical examination of a suspected case. The patient should remain in the room with the door closed. Belongings and waste should remain in the room.
‘Advise others not to enter the room. If a clinical history still needs to be obtained or completed, do this by telephone.
‘The patient should not be allowed to use communal toilet facilities.
‘Instruct them to not touch anything or anyone when walking to the toilet. Instruct the patient to wash their hands thoroughly after toileting.’
If the patient is critically ill, they should be put into an ambulance, PHE said.
But otherwise, a hospital should be phoned ahead and warned and the patient must be told to get there without using public transport or a taxi.
Experts from the WHO will meet again today to decide whether to declare an global health emergency over China’s coronavirus.
A decision was expected yesterday, but Dr Tedros Adhanom, director general of the WHO, said pushed it back saying the committee needed more information.
He said: ‘The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.’
He said there is a team in China working with local experts and officials to investigate the outbreak, and he added: ‘We will have much more to say tomorrow.’
On Wednesday the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said precautionary measures were being put in place at Heathrow after cases of the virus spread to other parts of the world.
But a passenger arriving in Heathrow last night was described having a regular arrival through baggage reclaim and customs, revealing: ‘It could have been a completely normal flight’.
They added: ‘All we were given was the mask and the check of our temperature. We were told to ring the NHS 111 if we start feeling ill and that’s it.’
Passengers were also given a Public Health England leaflet, advising them to contact doctors if they felt unwell. The never-before-seen virus can cause a fever.
There are three direct flights a week from Wuhan in China to Heathrow Airport, landing at around 6pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The captain of each flight would then tell passengers during landing to let a flight attendant know if they feel unwell, and these details would then be passed on to public health teams at the airport who would carry out further checks.
Meanwhile, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice for China, with a spokesman saying: ‘In light of the latest medical information, including reports of some person-to-person transmission, and the Chinese authorities’ own advice, we are now advising against all but essential travel to Wuhan.
‘The safety and security of British nationals is always our primary concern and we advise British nationals travelling to China to remain vigilant and check our travel advice on gov.uk.’
PHE upgraded the risk to the UK population from coronavirus from ‘very low’ to ‘low’.
In a report published yesterday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said ‘further global spread is likely’.
And ECDC added ‘there is a moderate likelihood of detecting cases imported into European countries.