As of January 28, up to 20 Chinese cities have been locked down or targeted by partial movement restrictions, with public transport in and out of them closed over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). A total of 106 people died of the disease. 976 patients remained in critical conditions. 6,973 people were suspected of being infected, while 4,515 cases were confirmed.
Troops clad in hazmat suits, with automatic rifles were deployed, and namely in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province. The city that houses approximately 11 million people is the center of the crisis. In total, approximately, 60 million people are under travel restrictions.
Additionally, 8 confirmed cases were reported in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 7 in Macao Special Administrative Region and 5 in Taiwan.
Chinese authorities are urgently building a 1,000-bed emergency field hospital, specifically to cure those infected by the coronavirus. The hospital is modeled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing. The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 270,000-square-foot lot, slated for completion on February 3.
The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days during an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China to more than a dozen countries and killed about 800 people. The SATRS hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.
On January 26, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that China started to develop vaccine for the novel coronavirus after successfully isolating the first strain of the virus.
All people entering and leaving China are having their temperature measured.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people get infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. In some cases, the viruses can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
These are more common in animals, and only a handful are known to affect humans, as is the case now. This is what happened with the coronaviruses known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV, between 2012-17) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov, 2002-3), both of which are known to cause more severe symptoms.
The 2019-nCoV virus has spread, at a relatively rapid pace. The first case was reported on December 31st, 2019, in Wuhan, China. The first cured individual, named Chen, a 56-year old woman was reported by Chinese authorities, as per Chinese media. She spent 2 weeks in hospital and was fully cured.
Since then, the virus has appeared in several other countries, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. The first U.S. case was confirmed on January 21st in a man in Washington state who had recently traveled to Wuhan. On January 24th, officials confirmed a second case in a woman from Chicago who had also recently traveled to the Chinese city. On January 24th, the first three cases were confirmed in France, with two patients being hospitalised in Paris and the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux. Australia also confirmed its first case of the virus. On January 28th, three suspected cases of the coronavirus were reported in the Indian capital.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus an “emergency in China,” but not an international concern.
According to the Imperial College London, self-sustaining human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) is the only plausible explanation of the scale of the outbreak in Wuhan. The released report estimates that on average, each case infected 2.6 (uncertainty range: 1.5-3.5) other people up to 18th January 2020. For comparison, during the SARS outbreak each case infected from 2.0 to 3.5 other people.
“This implies that control measures need to block well over 60% of transmission to be effective in controlling the outbreak. It is likely, based on the experience of SARS and MERS-CoV, that the number of secondary cases caused by a case of 2019-nCoV is highly variable – with many cases causing no secondary infections, and a few causing many. Whether transmission is continuing at the same rate currently depends on the effectiveness of current control measures implemented in China and the extent to which the populations of affected areas have adopted risk-reducing behaviours,” the report reads.
So far, the 2019-nCoV mortality rate has been approximately 2.35%. Therefore, the 2019-nCoV speed of spreading, as well as the fatality percentage is in reality lower than SARS, which took place in 2002-3, also in China. In total, there were 8098 confirmed cases of SARS, with a mortality rate of 9.6%. The virus was contacted from bats. The MERS, which spread in the Middle East, between 2012-17, had a confirmed number of 2,000 infected, and a mortality rate of 36%. It was contacted from camels.
The Chinese government is taking extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV. Military men in biological protection suits, blocked cities, and hospital construction efforts allow mainstream media outlets to paint an apocalyptic picture of the developments, claiming a pseudo-apocalyptic endemic that would threaten hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Countries such as the UK, the US, and others are carrying out coronavirus tests of various individuals. Mostly of Chinese origin, or those that have recently been to China.
One of the speculations is that the 2019-nCoV outbreak is a result of the leak from a secret (not very) laboratory. One of the Chinese BSL-4 rated labs (highest level of biological safety) is located in Wuhan.
“A laboratory in Wuhan is on the cusp of being cleared to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. The move is part of a plan to build between five and seven biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs across the Chinese mainland by 2025, and has generated much excitement, as well as some concerns.
Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, and the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations. But Chinese microbiologists are celebrating their entrance to the elite cadre empowered to wrestle with the world’s greatest biological threats,” The Nature article from February 2017 starts.
Regardless facts, speculations of the biolab in Wuhan became pretty popular, claiming that this is, in fact, a real-life Resident Evil scenario, and its infamous Umbrella Corporation, minus people turning into mindless zombies roaming the streets.
Another popular culture comparison is that with the popular game Plague Inc., and that as soon as Greenland hears a Chinese man has sneezed at an airport and it’s closed its borders, and that every other country should follow suit.
The media hysteria has gone so far that the developer of Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations, issued a statement saying that their game is realistic, but not with the aim to sensationalize serious world issues. It warned that this is, in fact a game, and not a scientific model.
Our website is currently offline due to very high player numbers. I'm copying our statement on the coronavirus outbreak here so people can still see it.https://t.co/pA6CUS7nJI pic.twitter.com/StXP6aemDe
— Plague Inc. / Rebel Inc. (@NdemicCreations) January 24, 2020
Rather dark memes are on the rise, with there even being a specific subreddit focused on coronavirus jokes. Most are harmless jokes, but many of them are tasteless, but they also serve the purpose of presenting China in a light that it is losing grip of the situation.
The apocalyptic coverage of the 2019-nCoV outbreak in China demonstrates how mainstream media outlets and social media platforms shape the audience’s perception of reality. While the Chinese government appears to be employing needed measures to contain the outbreak and prevent the virus spread, the MSM uses this measures to feed the audience with speculations that this is a signal of the Chinese inability to keep the situation under control.
MORE ON THE TOPIC: