The coronavirus has been underestimated. The deadly virus which originated in Wuhan, China has rapidly spread to countries as far as America and Australia. The city of Wuhan has been forced to shut down, sealing off 11-million people in an attempt to contain the dangerous disease. Hundreds of people have been infected with 17 reported deaths so far.
As of Thursday, January 23, planes and trains have been banned from leaving the major city at the centre of the outbreak. Authorities based in Wuhan have also suspended public transport modes and asked that residents do not leave without a special reason. The number of those infected by the virus has risen to roughly 570 in China alone.
Most of the confirmed cases are from Wuhan, where the location of the outbreak has been pinned to a seafood market. Illegal sales of exotic wild animals at the market has been identified as the source of the outbreak, with authorities suspecting that snakes sold at the market could be behind the deadly disease but more investigation is needed.
Alarm regarding the disease has peaked due to a case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that claimed the lives of nearly 650 people across China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003. Like SARS, the coronavirus can be passed through the respiratory tract and proves to be highly contagious.
The new virus first emerged on December 31 and has since made its way to Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Australia and the United States.
The decision to declare a global health emergency has been delayed by the World Health Organisation as they wait to see how the situation develops. The emergency committee is expected to convoke today and discuss the need for declaring a public health emergency.
As China observes the Lunar New Year holiday, many events to celebrate have been cancelled. The country is expected to receive an influx of tourists and locals coming home. The government has since announced measures including sterilisation and ventilation at airports and bus stations, as well as inside planes and trains to curb the spread of the disease.
Departures from the city have been banned but trains and planes are still being allowed to head into the city. Wearing masks in public spaces has also been enforced, as the virus has been confirmed to spread via human-to-human transmission.
While there are many unknown factors at this point the government is doing all they can to contain the pathogen with roughly 5 000 people currently under medical observation.