China has stepped up its response to a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 41 people and infected at least 1,287 in the mainland, ordering nationwide measures to detect the virus at transport terminals.
Beijing has also expanded travel restrictions, affecting the movement of 56 million people in more than a dozen cities, amid fears that the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year.
Health authorities around the world are taking action to prevent a global pandemic as the virus continues to spread, with cases reported in Australia, France, the United States and seven Asia countries besides China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged that the respiratory illness, which has been traced to the city of Wuhan, is an emergency in China but WHO said it is too early to declare it a global health emergency.
Window of opportunity for containment closing: Expert
One of Hong Kong’s leading microbiologists has said the window of opportunity for containing the new coronavirus is closing.
The scientist – who was at the forefront of efforts to contain the 2003 SARS outbreak – told Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown in Hong Kong that the virus has an attack rate of 83 percent and urged everyone going out in public in the semi-autonomous territory to wear a face mask.
“He says the next few days are going to be absolutely crucial. He says the window of opportunity to try and contain this is getting smaller and smaller,” Brown relayed.
Doubts over effectiveness of Hong Kong measures
Hong Kong has introduced a raft of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus but doubts are being raised over their efficacy.
Under the measures, announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam earlier on Saturday, all visitors coming from mainland China will be required to complete public health declarations.
“People providing false information will be fined up to $650,” Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong said.
“Of course, for this to work, it’s going to have to rely on the honesty of people filling in those forms to really state where they’ve been in China, especially if they’ve been in Wuhan”.
Muted mood in Beijing over Lunar New Year
Metro carriages are being disinfected every hour in the Chinese capital in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Cinemas and tourist attractions including the Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall have been closed.
Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Beijing, said that parks – usually packed with people celebrating the Lunar New Year – were nearly empty amid concerns over transmission.
Hubei province to ensure medium-to-long term materials reserves: Local paper
Hubei province will ensure supplies of emergency materials and medium-to-long terms reserves, a government-backed newspaper reported, citing a provincial party leader.
Wuhan to build second designated hospital: State media
Wuhan city will build a second dedicated hospital to treat patients of the new coronavirus, the People’s Daily reported.
Construction of the hospital, designed to have 1,300 beds, is scheduled to be completed in half a month.
Work has begun on the first dedicated hospital and is due to be finished by February 3.
Hong Kong declares outbreak an ’emergency’
Hong Kong’s leader has declared the outbreak as an “emergency” – the city’s highest warning tier – as authorities ramped up measures aimed at reducing the risk of further infections spreading.
Carrie Lam made the announcement at a press conference, adding that all official celebrations of the Lunar New Year would be cancelled.
Source: Al Jazeera