Second Chinese city is put in lockdown in virus crisis

‘It feels like the end of the world’: SECOND Chinese city is put in lockdown and Wuhan is turned into ‘ground zero’ as experts warn the coronavirus outbreak could spread at levels not seen since SARS crisis

  • More than 580 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, with most in China
  • The city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s centre, is nearing the end of a day in lockdown
  • Videos show traffic jams and people scrapping in a crowded supermarket 
  • European health officials said ‘further global spread is likely’ in a report
  • A World Health Organization meeting last night was inconclusive 

A second city in China is going into lockdown to try and stop the spread of a deadly new virus which has emerged in the country.

Authorities in Huanggang today announced it would suspend its 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 – nears the end of its first day in lockdown, with all flights out of the city cancelled and residents told not to leave.

Videos have shown chaos in Wuhan today, with footage depicting a government worker using gas to disinfeca park, traffic building up on a blocked highway and people scrapping over food in a crowded supermarket. 

Travellers have spread the coronavirus to seven countries already and European health officials say ‘further global spread is likely’, adding it’s likely to make it to Europe.  

The World Health Organization has not yet decided what action to take and is expected to meet again today to consider whether it 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 virus already being in the UK.

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. 

The British Government has stepped up measures to stop it being brought into the country, with passengers on the last flight from Wuhan last night being channeled through a separate area of London’s Heathrow airport.

The virus, which can cause pneumonia, has never been seen before so is poorly understood, but scientists now suggest it may have spread to humans from snakes.

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)

In one video, a man can be seen ‘disinfecting’ eerily quiet streets of Wuhan, with billowing fumes filling the air outside an apartment block

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

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.

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.

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’.  

Medical workers at Fiumicino Airport in Rome wear protective gear as they prepare to screen passengers arriving from Wuhan today, January 23

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 

‘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

WHAT IS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS SPREADING FROM CHINA?

An outbreak of pneumonia-like illnesses began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019. 

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. 

Scientists in China recognized its similarity to two viruses that turned into global killers: SARS and MERS. 

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome is caused by the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS Co, and first emerged in China in 2002. 

By the end of the outbreak, the virus had spread to several other Asian countries as well as the UK and Canada, killing 774. 

MERS, or Middle East respirator syndrome originated in the region for which it’s named, ultimately killed 787 people and belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS. 

The new virus wasn’t a match for either of those two, but it did belong to the same coronavirus family. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, and most cause mild respiratory infections – i.e. the common cold. 

But because the SARS and MERS proved deadly, the emergence of another new coronavirus has health officials on edge around the world. 

Like its two dangerous cousins, the new coronavirus appears to have originated with animals – particularly seafood, chickens, bats, marmots – found at a Wuhan market that’s been identified as the epicenter of the outbreak.  

The symptoms of SARS, which may be similar to those of the new coronavirus, include:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • headaches
  • chills
  • muscle pain
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea

After these symptoms, the infection will begin to affect your lungs and airways (respiratory system), leading to additional symptoms, such as:

  • a dry cough
  • breathing difficulties
  • an increasing lack of oxygen in the blood, which can be fatal in the most severe cases

 So far, there isn’t a treatment for the new virus or SARS, though the new virus has been sequenced, allowing for rapid diagnostics. 

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’.

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

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

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