China today ratcheted up efforts to squash the spread of the coronavirus infection which has killed 56.
Freezing long-distance bus routes, shutting schools, bulk-buying hazmat suits and banning wild animal sales are wrapped into an overarching government blueprint to chart a way through the health crisis.
The state is even filtering motivational messages through loudspeakers in the city at the epicentre of the outbreak.
In Wuhan, where the virus spawned from a seafood market, a female voice rang out: ‘Do not believe in rumours. Do not spread rumours.
‘If you feel unwell, go to the hospital in time. Wuhan is a city that dares to face difficulties and keeps overcoming them.’
Four cities – including Beijing, Shanghai, and the eastern province of Shandong – announced bans on long-distance buses from entering or leaving their borders, a move that will affect millions of people travelling over the Lunar New Year holiday.
China’s most important celebration has been all but cancelled for at least 56million people as authorities expanded travel bans across central Hubei province to try and contain the spread of the virus.
Buses remain parked in Wuhan after most inter-city travel was scrapped to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Four cities – including Beijing, Shanghai, and the eastern province of Shandong – have now announced bans on long-distance buses
Medical staff members in Wuhan wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city
This map shows all the areas where coronavirus has been identified so far, including Canada
Beijing’s education authority said the start of the spring semester had been postponed until further notice for all education levels, from kindergartens to universities.
Shanghai announced that middle and elementary schools and kindergartens would remain closed until February 17.
More medics and supplies
In Wuhan, 450 military medics were deployed to help treat patients in Hubei’s capital city, where a seafood and live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak.
Wuhan authorities are racing to build the second makeshift hospital within a fortnight to add 1,300 new beds.
The city also plans to transform 24 general hospitals for temporary use to cope with the increasing number of patients.
At a press conference this morning, officials also said they were importing protective suits from other countries.
Banning wild animal sales
China today announced a temporary nationwide ban on the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms.
Wild and often poached animals packed together in Chinese markets are blamed as incubators for viruses to evolve and jump the species barrier to humans.
China today announced a temporary nationwide ban on the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms (file photo)
Members of the media have their temperature checked before attending a news conference by the State Council Information Office about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing
Local authorities will ‘strengthen inspections and severely investigate and punish those who are found in violation of the provisions of this announcement,’ read the the ban issued by three government agencies.
No wildlife can be transported or sold in any markets or online, according to text of the announcement in state media. Suspected violators will be sent to security services, and their will be properties closed and sealed. Legal breeding centers will be quarantined.
The ban will continue until ‘the epidemic situation is lifted nationwide’ in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and block potential sources of infection and transmission.
The three agencies also opened a hotline where people can report violations, and called on the public to refrain from eating wild animal meat. The agencies are the State Administration of Market Regulation, Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
At a press conference today, Beijing’s health minister assured face-masked reporters that authorities have cranked up efforts to stop the spread of disease after conceding their knowledge of how it mutates is limited.
A woman wearing a protective facemask returns from a market in Wuhan which is on lock-down following the spread of cornnavirus
Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Gao Fu speaks during a State Council Information Office press conference
Ma Xiaowei said ‘it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger’ and added that the administration will continue to curb transport links and scrap planned public gatherings.
More than 2,000 people have now been infected worldwide and 56 have been killed in China, sparking President Xi Jinping to yesterday issue an unprecedented warning of a ‘grave situation’.
Yet top health official Gao Fu said the coronavirus was ‘not as powerful’ as the SARS outbreak which rocked China in 2003, although it is becoming more contagious.
While SARS-infected people were only contagious when their symptoms were showing, coronavirus victims can infect others during their incubation period which can be up to 14 days.
Casting a large shadow over this morning’s press conference was a video of nurse battling the outbreak who claimed the government is playing down the volume of the infections and said the true figure is 90,000.
But regime authorities batted back accusations of a cover-up and insisted it had ‘followed the principles of openness and transparency’ since the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province, last week.
And in a move to further project transparency, they announced daily press briefings on the threat posed by the virus starting tomorrow.
Ma said he has ‘maintained close communication with the World Health Organisation’ and invited inspectors to examine the country’s response.
He also revealed Beijing is sharing information with other nations after the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France and Canada all confirmed cases.