China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

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China locked down three cities at the epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected at least 634, as health authorities around the world took action to prevent a global pandemic.

Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

Most transport in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended on Thursday and people were told not to leave. Hours later, neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about 7 million people, and Ezhou announced a similar lockdown.

Here are the latest updates:


Thursday, January 23

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Singapore confirmed its first case the new coronavirus with the Ministry of Health (MOH) saying the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.

He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.

One of his travelling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.

Indian nurse in Saudi Arabia infected with coronavirus

A nurse working at a hospital in Saudi Arabia is the first Indian to be infected by the coronavirus, a minister said.

India’s junior foreign minister V Muraleedharan said about 100 nurses working at al-Hayat hospital in Khamis Mushait city were tested and one nurse was found to be infected with the virus.

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“The affected nurse is being treated at the Aseer National Hospital and is recovering well,” he wrote on Twitter.

Vietnam confirms two cases of coronavirus

Two Chinese nationals in Vietnam have tested positive for the coronavirus and are being treated in hospital, officials said.

A Chinese man living in Ho Chi Minh City was infected by his father who travelled to Vietnam on January 13 from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The father was hospitalised on January 17 with a high fever, days before his son showed symptoms, health officials said.

Wuhan to build designated hospital to treat coronavirus patients

The Chinese city of Wuhan, epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak, will build a dedicated hospital to treat patients, which it aims to complete in six days, state media outlet Beijing News reported. 

It cited an unnamed source at the construction company that will build it.

Wuhan residents react to quarantine

Wuhan residents called for help and shared worries of food shortages, with streets in the virus-hit central Chinese city deserted after it was put on lockdown.


Planes and trains out of the city were cancelled with public transport suspended and residents ordered not to leave in a bid to control the spread of the disease.

“I try my best to stay home and only come out to buy the necessary goods when needed,” a man surnamed Sun told AFP news agency from a small supermarket, which already had a few empty shelves.

‘Wuhan is sealed off’ trends on social media

The search term “Wuhan is sealed off” had been read more than 1.2 billion times on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform with about 376,000 discussion posts.

One writer, a 26-year-old surnamed Mao, said: “I have not gone out of the house for around two days.”

He said last time he went out, surgical masks were selling for a higher-than-normal price of $7 each. After he bought some, the person behind him in the queue bought the remaining stock in the shop.

Wuhan health facilities overrun

In an interview with the People’s Daily, the Wuhan Health Commission said there are long queues at fever treatment centres, as well as a “tight situation” in terms of beds available.

It said seven hospitals are being “fully utilised” with 3,000 beds set aside to treat suspected and confirmed cases.

The Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University issued an appeal for donations of masks and protective clothing to alumni.

WHO to decide whether to declare ‘global health emergency’

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it will decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the international response.

If it does so, it will be the sixth international public health emergency to be declared in the last decade. 

“The lockdown of 11 million people is unprecedented in public health history, so it is certainly not a recommendation the WHO has made,” said Gauden Galea, the WHO’s representative in Beijing, of the quarantine of two major Chinese cities.

UK screening China flights for coronavirus

British public health officials have been carrying out enhanced screening of flights following the spread of a deadly new virus in China, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed.

Speaking in Parliament, the Hancock said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK so far.

However, in response to the virus’ spread in other countries, the UK’s chief medical officer revised the risk to the population in Britain from “very low” to “low”, with Hancock saying that while there was an increased likelihood that cases of coronavirus may arise “we are well-prepared and well-equipped to deal with them”.

Epidemic response group starts work on 3 possible virus vaccines

Three separate research teams are to start work on developing potential vaccines against the new coronavirus that is causing a disease epidemic in China, a global coalition set up to fight diseases said.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is co-funding the emergency projects, said the plan was to have at least one potential vaccine in clinical trials by June.

“Our aspiration with these technologies is to bring a new pathogen from gene sequence to clinical testing in 16 weeks,” said Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s chief executive.

Asia taking no chances with new China virus as WHO meeting looms

“There are no guarantees of success, but we hope this work could provide a significant and important step forward in developing a vaccine for this disease.”

Qatar advises against unnecessary travel to affected cities

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health issued national guidelines for dealing with new cases of coronavirus, with alerting all hospitals in the country to report any suspected respiratory infections, especially of travelers returning from the affected countries in a 14-day period of their arrival.

The National Committee for Epidemiology approved the application of thermal examination at Hamad International Airport to all travelers coming from China.

The Ministry also advised against unnecessary travel to avoid cities where the virus is present in China, and to avoid close contact with animals in the affected areas and not to mix closely with people who show symptoms of respiratory infections, while continuing to wash hands with soap and water.

Beijing cancels New Year events to curb virus spread

China’s capital city Beijing cancelled major public events including two well-known Lunar New Year temple fairs, the state-run Beijing News said, as authorities try to curb the spread of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Separately, the country’s railway operator, China State Railway Group, said passengers would be able to receive full refunds on tickets nationwide starting on Friday.

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