A third city in China is going into lockdown as officials battle to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that has killed 17 and left hundreds more seriously ill.
Authorities in Ezhou have shut train stations, while Huanggang has suspended public buses and trains as well as ordering cinemas and internet cafes to close their doors.
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’.
Travellers have spread the coronavirus to seven countries already, including the US, and European health officials say ‘further global spread is likely’, adding it’s likely to the never-before-seen virus will make it to Europe.
It was revealed today that an American man infected with the deadly virus came into close contact with at least 16 people before he was put in isolation.
According to health officials, the unnamed man from Washington state, who is in his 30s, wasn’t diagnosed until Monday, January 20 – five days after he returned from China.
The World Health Organization is facing increasng pressure to declare the crisis a public health emergency.
Health chiefs will meet again today to consider whether the outbreak – which has infected almost 600 people and killed 17 – is an international emergency.
Scientists yesterday warned as many as 10,000 people could have been infected in Wuhan alone and said they couldn’t rule out the SARS-like virus already being in the UK. Others have said no virus has spread this far this quickly since SARS in 2003.
Wuhan’s Health Commission said the city is ‘witnessing a fast growing trend of fever patients’ and hospitals are facing bed shortages because of the virus, which has still yet to be named.
Last night British government ministers ordered a clampdown on flights from Wuhan, and took the extraordinary measure of effectively quarantining passengers from China.
The virus, which can cause pneumonia, is poorly understood. Scientists now fear it may have spread to humans from snakes or bats.
One professor yesterday warned the outbreak has a death rate similar to the global Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which went on to kill more than 50million people. Data suggests two in 100 people who catch the virus will die.
In one video, a man can be seen ‘disinfecting’ eerily quiet streets of Wuhan, with billowing fumes filling the air outside an apartment block
Another clip reportedly shows an airline passenger with suspected SARS-like being wheeled out of an airport in a quarantine box
Quarantine tents appear to have been set-up on the outskirts to isolate anyone showing symptoms in a pop-up medical area
Screening checkpoints were set up at Los Angeles International Airport, New York’s John F Kennedy airport and San Francisco International Airport last week amid heightened concerns over the coronavirus. A passenger wearing a face mask is seen arriving at LAX on Tuesday
Chinese authorities say 17 people have died and more than 500 have been infected, air and rail departures from Wuhan are suspended from January 23
People covering their mouths with masks are pictured having their temperatures checked at Hangzhou railway station in the east of China today, January 23
Medical workers in Hong Kong are dressed in protective gear which they have to wear while dealing with suspected coronavirus patients (Pictured today, January 23)
Shoppers are pictured in a supermarket in Wuhan, where people are complaining that food prices have risen and videos showed people scrapping over groceries (Picture taken today, January 23)
Travellers wear face masks as a precautionary measure at Hong Kong International Airport, pictured today
Coronavirus: What we know so far
What is this virus?
The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Can it kill?
Yes. Seventeen people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. What are the symptoms?
Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.
How is it detected?
The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.
To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.
How did it start and spread?
The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.
What are countries doing to prevent the spread?
Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.
Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.
Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?
Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere
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. The move started 2am GMT (10am in Wuhan).
Clips posted on Twitter claim to show the impact the unprecedented decision has had, 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,a mid 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 581 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, most of which 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.
One professor warned the outbreak currently has a death rate similar to the global Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, which went on to kill more than 50million people.
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.
Elsewhere in the world, including the UK, airports are taking the temperature of any passenger that flies in from Wuhan. Screening ‘is not foolproof’, however.
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 man 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’.
A screen shows the body temperatures of arriving passengers at Hong Kong International Airport, pictured today
Airline passengers queue today, January 23, at an airport in Hong Kong while wearing face masks to try and stop themselves catching the deadly virus
Another video shows overcrowded tills in a supermarket where shoppers fight over fresh vegetables
Pedestrians cover their faces in Hong Kong today, January 23. At least two people have been infected in Hong Kong, which is part of the same land mass as China
Taking no risks: Family arrive at Atlatna Hartsfield Airport wearing protective masks as the coronavirus spreads
A US Border and Protection cruiser was spotted along with unmarked vehicles, and two fire trucks today at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport
Screenings have also been implemented at New York’s John F Kennedy airport (file photo)
Checkpoints were also set up at San Francisco International Airport, where passengers are seen on Tuesday
Screenings will also take place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest hub in the world (above in a file photo)
Medical workers at Fiumicino Airport in Rome wear protective gear as they prepare to screen passengers arriving from Wuhan today, January 23
Passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport Authority are scanned by thermal imaging for body temperature as they go through health measures and procedures against deadly SARS-like virus
Medical staff at Huazhong University of Science and Technology today attended a ceremony to form a ‘assault team’ in the fight against the coronavirus
Residents in Wuhan are pictured wearing masks to buy vegetables in the market this morning
Pictured, Wuhan residents wear masks to buy vegetables in the market today
Italian Health Ministry officials get ready to screen passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for the virus
‘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.’
China and other countries around the Asia-Pacific have stepped up their defence against the virus. Pictured, a protective mask is offered to people in a car in Chongqing, China
China banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan at the centre of a virus outbreak on January 23. Pictured, an attendant offers free protective masks to a passenger at a gas station
Paramilitary police stand guard at an entrance to the closed Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province
Chinese state media said Wuhan had its train stations and airport closed, while ferries and long-distance buses were also stopped. Normally this station in Wuhan is packed with passengers, but was eerily quiet on January 23
Local authorities have demanded all residents wear masks in public places. Pictured, workers producing facemasks at a factory in Handan in China’s northern Hebei province
Social media users complained on social media that food vendors were exploiting the situation with huge price increases on fresh produce. Pictured, residents buy vegetables wearing masks
Chinese flight attendants wear masks to go through customers at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport
Citizens in Peking wear masks to defend against the potential spread of the coronavirus
A staff member checks a passenger’s body temperature at Wangjiadun metro station in Wuhan this morning
A China Eastern Airlines aircrew member arrives at Sydney airport after landing on a plane from Wuhan today
Crew from China Eastern Airlines leave the airport wearing face masks after arriving in Sydney from Wuhan this morning
Flight crew from China Eastern Airlines leave Sydney airport wearing face masks after arriving from Wuhan this morning
Pedestrians cover their faces with sanitary masks after the first cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, pictured today
Health care workers in Hong Kong are pictured today giving first aid in an ambulance as they cover their faces with sanitary masks
Passengers wearing masks arrive at Sydney airport after landing on a plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan today
Workers manufacture protective face masks in a factory, as face mask stocks run low amid the outbreak of coronavirus, in Handan, Hebei Province, pictured today
People wearing masks board a train for the direction of Wuhan at Hongqioa train station as they head home for the Lunar New Year in Shanghai, pictured today
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.
Under the new measures, it was planned that planes would be taken to an isolated area of terminal four.
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’.
A family arrive Sydney airport after landing on a plane from Wuhan this morning
A China Eastern Airlines aircrew arrive at Sydney airport after landing on a plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan, pictured today
Children wearing masks arrive at Sydney airport after landing on a plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan, pictured today
A young boy wearing a facemask sits with a bag on the floor at the West Kowloon rail station in Hong Kong today
The respiratory virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and can be passed between humans. Pictured: Passengers arrive wearing a mask at Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport, January 22
Passengers who arrived on one of the last flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan walk through a health screening station at Narita airport in Chiba prefecture, outside Tokyo
A China Eastern Airlines pilot arrives at Sydney airport after flying a plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan today
Airport personnel look at thermal scanners as they check on arriving passengers at Manila’s international airport, Philippines. The government is closely monitoring arrival of passengers
A thermal scanner checks on arriving passengers at Manila’s international airport, Philippines
A young boy wearing a mask rides on a roller bag at Changi Airport in Singapore
Passengers wear masks as they arrive at Manila’s international airport, Philippines