CORONAVIRUS

Xi Calls Situation Grave As China Scrambles To Contain Virus

Jan 25, 2020, 2:33 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2020, 12:43 pm
Guards wearing face masks stand at Hankou Railway Station on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. A ne...
Guards wearing face masks stand at Hankou Railway Station on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan last week. Health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medical experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States,Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. It is reported that Wuhan will suspend all public transportation at 10 AM on January 23, 2020. (Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)

BEIJING (AP) – China’s leader on Saturday called the accelerating spread of a new virus a grave situation, as cities from the outbreak’s epicenter in central China to Hong Kong scrambled to contain an illness that has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41.

President Xi Jinping’s remarks, reported by state broadcaster CCTV, came at a meeting of Communist Party leaders convened on Lunar New Year — the country’s biggest holiday whose celebrations have been muted — and underlined the government’s urgent, expanding efforts to control the outbreak.

Travel agencies have been told to halt all group tours, the state-owned English-language China Daily newspaper reported, citing the China Association of Travel Services.

Millions of people traveling during the holiday have fueled the spread of the outbreak nationwide and overseas after it began in the city of Wuhan in central China. The vast majority of the infections and all the deaths have been in mainland China, but fresh cases are popping up.

Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases Saturday — four each —and Japan, its third. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe, and the U.S. identified its second, a woman in Chicago who had returned from China.

In the heart of the outbreak where 11 million residents are already on lockdown, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas starting Sunday, state media reported. Only authorized vehicles would be permitted, the reports said.

The city will assign 6,000 taxis to neighborhoods, under the management of resident committees, to help people get around if they need to, China Daily said.

In Hong Kong, leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, the highest one, and close primary and secondary schools for two more weeks on top of next week’s Lunar New Year holiday. They will reopen Feb. 17.

Lam said direct flights and trains from Wuhan would be blocked.

In a sign of the growing strain on Wuhan’s health care system, the official Xinhua news agency reported that the city planned to build a second makeshift hospital with about 1,000 beds. The city has said another hospital was expected to be completed Feb. 3.

The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal.

China cut off trains, planes and other links to Wuhan on Wednesday, as well as public transportation within the city, and has steadily expanded a lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million — greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

China’s biggest holiday, Lunar New Year, unfolded Saturday in the shadow of the virus. Authorities canceled a host of events, and closed major tourist destinations and movie theaters.

Temples locked their doors, Beijing’s Forbidden City and Shanghai Disneyland closed, and people canceled restaurant reservations ahead of the holiday, normally a time of family reunions, sightseeing trips and other festivities in the country of 1.4 billion people.

“We originally planned to go back to my wife’s hometown and bought train tickets to depart this afternoon,” said Li Mengbin, who was on a stroll near the closed Forbidden City. “We ended up canceling. But I’m still happy to celebrate the new year in Beijing, which I hadn’t for several years.”

Temples and parks were decorated with red streamers, paper lanterns and booths, but some places started dismantling the decor.

People in China wore medical masks to public places like grocery stores, where workers dispensed hand sanitizer to customers. Some parts of the country had checkpoints for temperature readings and made masks mandatory.

The National Health Commission reported a jump in the number of infected people, to 1,287. The latest tally, from 29 provinces and cities across China, included 237 patients in serious condition.

Of the 41 deaths, 39 have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital city. Most of the deaths have been older patients, though a 36-year-old man in Hubei died this week.

French automaker PSA Group says it will evacuate its employees from Wuhan, quarantine them and then bring them to France. The Foreign Ministry said it was working on “eventual options” to evacuate French citizens from Wuhan “who want to leave.” It didn’t elaborate.

The National Health Commission said it is bringing in medical teams to help handle the outbreak, a day after videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for examinations and complaints that family members had been turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

The Chinese military dispatched 450 medical staff, some with experience in past outbreaks, including SARS and Ebola, who arrived in Wuhan late Friday to help treat many patients hospitalized with viral pneumonia, Xinhua reported.

Xinhua also said medical supplies are being rushed to the city, including 14,000 protective suits, 110,000 pairs of gloves and masks and goggles.

The rapid increase in reported deaths and illnesses does not necessarily mean the crisis is getting worse but could reflect better monitoring and reporting of the virus.

It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. alone.

___

Associated Press researcher Henry Hou and video journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

FILE PHOTO (Photo by Jacob King - WPA Pool/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

Moderna COVID-19 shots now an option for older kids in US

There is now a second COVID-19 option for kids ages 6 to 17 in the U.S.
3 days ago
Pfizer says it's COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in kids 12 to 15. (Justin Tallis-Pool/Getty Ima...
Jen Christensen, CNN

What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects in young kids? Experts seek to ease parents’ concerns

Experts look at what side effects to expect from the COVID vaccine for children six months and older.
5 days ago
The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
6 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
6 days ago
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about Covid-19 vaccines for children, in the Roosevelt Room of the ...
ZEKE MILLER and JOSH BOAK, Associated Press

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

President Joe Biden is celebrating that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend.
6 days ago
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, ASSOCIATED RPESS

US opens COVID vaccine to little kids; shots begin this week

The U.S. on Saturday opened COVID-19 vaccines to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The shots will become available this week, expanding the nation’s vaccination campaign to children as young as 6 months.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Xi Calls Situation Grave As China Scrambles To Contain Virus