Containing Wuhan Coronavirus Gets More Challenging

A nurse from Changchun in Jilin Province seen on January 26, 2020 as she prepares to leave for Hubei province to help coronavirus control efforts there. Photo credit: Xinhua/Zhang Nan.CONFIRMATION THAT PATIENTS with the Wuhan Coronavirus can be infectious before their symptoms show and that the incubation period can be up to two weeks are setbacks for authorities’ attempts to contain the outbreak.

It makes the strategies of isolating patients to minimize the spread of the disease and temperature monitoring of travellers less effective.

Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak is on lockdown, many other cities have had travel restrictions imposed and travellers have to undergo temperature screening. Meanwhile, mass New Year events have been cancelled across the country. Towns in and around Wuhan have been described as ghost towns as residents heed official calls to stay inside.

Yet hundreds of thousands of travellers had been on the move before such measures were imposed, potentially making the scale of the outbreak far more extensive than first thought.

Ma Xiaowei, head of the National Health Commission, says the ability of the new respiratory virus to spread appears to be strengthening, without providing any clarification of what he meant. It may be that the virus is mutating in that way, or it could just be that the new information makes the containment more difficult.

Some 2,000 (Update: Nearly 3,000) cases of the new virus, officially named 2019-nCoV, have been confirmed and at least 56 (Update: 80) people have died, mostly elderly with pre-existing conditions but also including one doctor who was treating patients. The new coronavirus is similar to (about 85% identical) but distinct from the SARS virus, according to an academic study by Chinese researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Army medical teams and doctors and nurses from other provinces have been drafted into Wuhan, where hospitals are under stress and running short of supplies. Reports say that more than 3,000 extra medical personnel have arrived. Two new emergency hospitals are being rapidly constructed. Medical supplies being imported to meet domestic shortages, particularly of masks and protective suits.

Further control measures include a nationwide suspension of sales of wild animals; the outbreak is believed to have started in the Huanan seafood and animal market in Wuhan. Media are also being reminded that they have their part to play in containing the outbreak through responsible reporting. The limits to transparency are being established.

On Saturday, President Xi Jinping chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee — the top leadership — that set up a leading group headed by Premier Li Keqiang to take control of the response. That is a step up in centralisation and politicisation from the previous national-level response. That was at State Council and National Health Commission level.

One of the leading group’s first actions was to extend the New Year’s holiday for an indeterminate period (Update: by three days to February 2) as part of the control measures on travel and to indicate that there would be further restrictions on individuals’ freedom of movement. The start of the spring semester at educational institutions from universities to kindergartens has been postponed until further notice.

Leading officials have also been told that they ‘must stand at the frontline’. As we said previously, politically, the prize and penalties for how this disease ends up being handled are significant, not just for China internationally but domestically, too.


Filed under Politics & Society

2 responses to “Containing Wuhan Coronavirus Gets More Challenging

  1. Pingback: China Returns Fitfully To Work As Coronavirus Containment Continues | China Bystander

  2. Pingback: The Intriguing Tale Of The Unnoticed Data From Wuhan’s Wet Markets | China Bystander

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