Friday 24 January 2020
Beijing – (AFP):
Today, Friday, the Chinese authorities closed more than a dozen cities located in the vicinity of the newly created Corona Virus Center, whose outcome rose again following the failure of the World Health Organization to declare an international health emergency.
The number of deaths from the viral epidemic in China rose to 26 out of 830, after this mysterious disease appeared in December in a wholesale market of seafood in Wuhan, central China.
Wuhan 11 million people, has been de facto under quarantine since Thursday, a taxi driver says, “This year, our new year is very scary,” adding: “We dare not get out because of the virus.”
The long holidays for the Chinese New Year begin Friday, on the eve of the start of the Mouse Year on January 25. This vacation leads to hundreds of millions of transfers, which exacerbates the infection.
A previous toll released by the National Health Commission reported 18 deaths and more than 600 confirmed injuries, mostly in Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan.
Of the 830 cases, 177 are considered serious, according to the commission, while 34 people have “recovered” and have been discharged from hospital. More than a thousand people are suspected of being tested.
On Friday, local authorities confirmed a death outside the epidemic center, in Heilongjiang Province (northeast), which borders Russia, without giving further details.
In the face of the crisis, the socialist system made an unprecedented decision Thursday to prevent all trains and planes from leaving Wuhan and to close highways.
A few planes were heading to the city during the day. Buses and ships in the Yangtze River, the longest river in China and Wuhan on its banks, received a stopover in both directions.
I am not afraid
For the second day in a row, the streets of Wuhan were deserted, shops were closed and traffic was restricted to a minimum. Wearing protective masks is compulsory, under the authority of a police report against the offending person.
A lonely guard stood guard in front of the hospital, where people with viral pneumonia were treated.
“I am not afraid. I am trying to do my job in the best possible way,” he told AFP, declining to be named. He added: “In this tragic situation, we all have to do our duty seriously, otherwise we will not be able to get out of it.”
About 100 kilometers to the east, Huangshi city, with an estimated population of two million, announced on Friday morning the suspension of public transport and the closure of the bridge over the Yangtze River.
Jingtjo, a city of more than 6 million people, was prevented from leaving by trains, ships and buses.
Thirteen cities in central China have been isolated from the outside world. In total, these measures affect more than 40 million people in Hubei Province, which has nearly 60 million people.
An emergency in China
After a two-day meeting at its headquarters in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged on Thursday a “state of emergency in China” but considered it “too early” to speak of a “global health emergency”.
The organization has not yet used the term global emergency except in rare epidemic situations that require a firm international response, such as the swine flu “H1N1” in 2009, the “Zika” virus in 2016, and Ebola, which swept part of West Africa between 2014 and 2016 and the Republic of the Congo Democracy 2018.
The organization hoped that the tough measures taken by China would be “both effective and short-term.”
Didier Hussein, Chairman of the WHO Emergency Committee, said: “We realized that the measures taken in Wuhan resulted from the initiative of this city and not from the development of the epidemic.”
The organization asserts that there is no evidence so far of human-to-human transmission outside China, adding: “It appears that so far it is limited to family groups and health-care workers.”
The organization does not require travel restrictions, but rather to subject travelers to airport checks. It also calls on “all countries” to put in place procedures to detect cases of the virus, for which there is currently no treatment or vaccine to prevent it.
In Davos, where the World Economic Forum is being held, the Alliance for Epidemiological Innovations announced Thursday that medical trials of the first vaccine could take place “starting in the summer”.
Injuries were reported in Asian countries: (Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam), as well as in the United States.
The disease raises fears of a recurrence of the similar SARS virus that killed 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003.
In a sign of anxiety throughout China, the “Forbidden City” in Beijing, the old imperial palace, announced that it would close its doors until further notice to avoid any risk of infection among visitors.
The capital canceled New Year’s celebrations, which usually gathered hundreds of millions of people in parks to celebrate.
From Montreal, the Canadian “Cirque du Soleil” canceled an offer that was scheduled in Beijing at the request of the authorities.
And announced the city of “Disneyland” in Shanghai Friday closed its doors until further notice a preventive measure towards its visitors and employees, according to its website.
According to official media, China started building a hospital to receive 1,000 people infected with the virus within ten days, on Friday. Television footage showed dozens of construction machinery preparing the land on which the hospital will be built in Wuhan. Construction will be completed in record time, and the hospital, which will occupy 25,000 square meters, will open its doors on February 3, according to the New China News Agency.