China battles coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

The virus thought to have originated in a Wuhan food market continues to spread as China steps up containment efforts.

China is ramping up containment measures as the spread of a new coronavirus that has killed 56 people and infected at least 1,975 more in the country accelerates.

A nationwide ban on wildlife trade is in place and more than 56 million people in almost 20 cities are affected by travel restrictions, which have been introduced amid fears the transmission rate will balloon as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Health authorities around the world are taking action to prevent a pandemic as more countries report cases. Confirmed cases have so far been announced in Europe, North America and several Asiancountries.

China cracks down on wildlife trade amid coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the respiratory illness, which has been traced to the city of Wuhan, is an emergency in China but the organisation said on Thursday it was too early to declare it a public health emergency of international concern.

This blog is now closed. Read all the latest updates here.

Sunday, January 26

China orders public holiday extended to curb epidemic

Chinese authorities have ordered the extension of a public holiday in an effort to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

A working group chaired by Premier Li Keqiang to tackle the outbreak decided “to reduce population flows” by extending the Spring Festival holiday which had been scheduled to end on January 30, state news agency Xinhua said.

It was not immediately clear how long the extension is.

“The meeting stressed that the country is at a crucial time in the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, urging Party committees and governments at all levels to take more ‘decisive, powerful and orderly, scientific and well-planned’ measures to effective curb the spread,” Xinhua reported.

Fourth case in the US confirmed

Health officials in Los Angeles County have confirmed a fourth United States case of the coronavirus.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Sunday the infected person presented themselves for care once they noticed they were not feeling well and is currently receiving medical attention.

The person is a returning traveller from Wuhan City, China.

US consulate to evacuate staff from epidemic-stricken Wuhan

The US Consulate in the epidemic-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight Tuesday.

The embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport US citizens on the flight which will travel to San Francisco.

It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus”.

Alibaba’s Taobao takes down overpriced face masks 

Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace has removed sales of face masks from shops that show “unstable prices or false advertising” as prices for the products surged as Chinese consumers race to protect themselves from the coronavirus outbreak.

The newly identified coronavirus has created alarm because much about it is still unknown, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.

France to repatriate citizens from Wuhan as virus spreads

France’s government announced it will repatriate hundreds of French citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Those French citizens who want to leave Wuhan will be taken on a direct flight to France in the middle of the week, and then held in quarantine for 14 days, the French health minister announced, after a special government meeting to discuss the spreading virus.

France is joining other countries planning evacuations from Wuhan, which is under lockdown by the Chinese government.

Taiwan offers help to China to help fight coronavirus

Taiwan’s vice president-elect on Sunday offered help to rival China to fight the new coronavirus outbreak, as authorities in the island further tightened restrictions on visitors from China to prevent its spread.

“It is incumbent upon Taiwan to take part, and help China to solve this serious epidemic, so as not to allow it to continue to spread, and that the sick can get appropriate treatment to return to help,” he said.

Taiwan has close economic and cultural links with China and has so far reported four cases of the virus.

Taiwan confirms fourth case

Taiwanese officials on Sunday announced a fourth case of the new coronavirus.

Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang confirmed that a woman in her 50s had been infected with the new coronavirus.

He said the woman had travelled to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, and afterwards to Europe.  
Tsou Tsung-pei, a physician for the CDC, said the woman’s vital signs were stable and she is currently quarantined at a hospital for further tests.

Canadian patient with China virus showed symptoms on plane

Canadian officials said they are tracking down airline passengers and others who were in close contact with the first person in the country detected with an emerging virus that originated in China.

Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the man, who is in his 50’s, had mild symptoms when he flew from Wuhan to Guangzhou, China, and then on to Toronto. 

Tam said officials are locating passengers who were within a 2-meter radius of the man’s seat or anyone who may have served or helped him.

Hong Kong to ban entry of people from Hubei

Hong Kong’s government will ban residents of the Hubei province, where the new coronavirus outbreak was first reported, or those who have visited the province in the past 14 days from entering the city starting Monday.

The rule does not apply to Hong Kong residents, it added in a statement, without providing an end date to the ban.

Hong kong coronavirus
A child wears mask as she tries a themed ears at a souvenir shop in Disneyland hotel after Hong Kong Disneyland that has been closed, following the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

China scrambles to contain ‘strengthening’ virus

The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise.

China’s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the virus can range from one to 14 days, during which infection can occur, which was not the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

SARS was a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.

“According to recent clinical information, the virus’ ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma told reporters.

The Lunar New Year holiday, traditionally celebrated by hundreds of millions of Chinese travelling around the country and abroad to see family, began on Friday but has been severely disrupted by the outbreak.

Ma said China would intensify its containment efforts, which have so far included transportation and travel curbs and the cancellation of big events.

Mayor of China’s Wuhan expects another 1,000 cases in the city

The mayor of China’s Wuhan, epicentre of the outbreak, said he expects another 1,000 new patients in the city, highlighting the immense pressure on its infrastructure.

Wuhan’s city government will step up construction of specialised hospitals to deal with infected patients, Mayor Zhou Xianwang told reporters.

The pressure on supplies of medical goods such as protective suits, masks and glasses had largely eased, he said, thanks in part to increased private donations.

Wuhan, a city of about 11 million and capital of Hubei province, has been under virtual lockdown amid intensifying efforts to contain the outbreak.

Hubei Province Governor Wang Xiaodong also told reporters during the briefing he feels “agonised” and responsible for the outbreak.

500 Pakistani students in Wuhan: Pakistan

More than 500 Pakistani students and other community members are living in Wuhan, the Pakistani foreign office said in a press release

So far, no Pakistani living in China has been reported infected by the coronavirus, the statement said. 

“The community has been reassured of full support and requested to follow health protocols issued by the Chinese authorities and stay indoors,” read the press release.


Hong Kong protesters torch planned quarantine building

A group of protesters has set alight the lobby of a newly built residential building in Hong Kong that authorities plan to use as a quarantine facility.

A witness told Reuters news agency that they saw a group of masked protesters, clad in black, rush into the public housing block in Hong Kong’s Fanling district near the border with China and set alight a Molotov cocktail before running out.

Black smoke could be seen pouring from the building to the sound of fire alarms. Windows were smashed.

Sydney to replace Nanjing as host for Women’s Olympic Qualifiers

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has informed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that it is withdrawing as host of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 Asian Qualifiers Final Round – Group B in Nanjing.

The AFC has nominated Sydney, Australia as the replacement host for the group, which involves Australia, China, Taipei and Thailand, an AFC press release said.

The AFC had previously agreed to switch the venue from Wuhan to Nanjing amid concerns over the outbreak.

Thailand holds emergency meeting as 8th case confirmed

Thailand‘s health minister called an emergency meeting with the transport and tourism ministries amid rising public discontent over the government’s handling of the outbreak.

“We can control the situation and are confident in our ability to handle the crisis,” Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters. 

Eight cases have been reported in Thailand. Anutin added that three of the people infected were being treated and five had recovered and gone home.

Pope Francis praises China’s containment efforts

Pope Francis has praised China’s efforts to contain the outbreak and said he was praying for the dead, the sick and the families of victims.

“I would like also to be close and to pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China,” Francis told the tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square for his weekly message and blessing.

“May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic,” he said.

‘Either the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us’: Wuhan resident

Thousands of foreign students and other international residents live in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown for several days.

“In the past week, we’ve not been able to go out and buy anything to eat,” Mashal Jamalzai, a political science student from Afghanistan told AFP news agency.


He said he and his classmates have been living on biscuits and that his embassy had not responded to requests for help.

“We want to be evacuated as soon as possible, because either the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us,” Jamalzai said.

China: Two provinces, three cities order residents to wear masks

Two Chinese provinces and three cities have ordered citizens to wear face masks in public to help control the spread of the virus.

The measure is required in the provinces of Guangdong in the south and Jiangxi in the centre, plus the eastern city of Nanjing, Ma’anshan city in Anhui province and Xinyang city in Henan, according to local authorities.

Japan confirms fourth case 

Japan has confirmed a fourth case of infection by the new coronavirus, public broadcaster NHK said, citing the health ministry.

The case was confirmed in a resident of Wuhan in his 40s who arrived in Japan for a holiday on January 22.

The man was hospitalised in Aichi prefecture, central Japan, and tested positive for the virus, NHK said.

What has China learned from the SARS epidemic?

An outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) killed nearly 800 people worldwide between 2002 and 2003.

China, where the disease originated, was widely criticised for a lack of transparency, which experts say allowed transmission to accelerate.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, examines how the lessons of SARS are shaping China’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak.


Hubei cities fearful as medical supplies run low

Doctors working in the centre of the new coronavirus outbreak tell Al Jazeera they have resorted to using raincoats and plastic bags as protective suits amid dwindling supplies.

Read the full story here.

Macau confirms three new cases 

Macau, a Chinese gambling hub hugely popular with mainland tourists, has confirmed three new cases of the new coronavirus.

Macau’s Health Bureau (SSM) said the three new cases were detected in women who were residents of Wuhan.

Eleven others are under observation in hospital, the SSM said.

Hong Kong confirms sixth case

Officials from Hong Kong’s health authority and hospital department have confirmed the sixth case of the coronavirus in the semi-autonomous territory.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, said the officials also told reporters that the number of suspected cases has now gone up by 77, taking it to more than 380.

Brown added that officials announced that a former holiday camp would be converted into a quarantine centre.

Paris cancels Lunar New Year parade

Paris-based Chinese associations have cancelled a Lunar New Year parade, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

“I have met with the Chinese community in Paris. They are very emotional and concerned and they have decided to cancel the parade that was scheduled for this afternoon at Place de la Republique,” Hidalgo told Europe 1 radio.

France Lunar New Year Celebrations
Smaller celebrations went ahead in the French capital on Sunday [Michel Euler/AP Photo]

“They are really not in a mood to party now,” she added. 

France has three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. 

Hebei province to suspend inter-province, inter-city buses 

China’s northern Hebei province will suspend all inter-province and inter-city buses in order to curb the coronavirus outbreak, state media CCTV reported.

The report, which cites a decision by the Hebei Provincial Transportation Commission, did not say when bus services would resume. One person has died from the new virus in Hebei, according to China’s official figures.

South Korea confirms third case

South Korea has confirmed its third case of the new coronavirus, Yonhap News Agency reported.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), a 54-year-old South Korean resident of Wuhan who arrived home on Monday tested positive for the virus.

He was placed in isolation on Saturday for tests and treatment, the KCDC said, adding that all efforts were being made to trace his whereabouts and people he met after arriving in the country.

China’s National Health Commission holds news conference on coronavirus

Japan to evacuate citizens from Wuhan: PM Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his country was working with Chinese authorities to arrange a charter flight for any Japanese nationals who wished to return from Wuhan.

Japan‘s national broadcaster NHK reported earlier on Sunday that about 700 Japanese were believed to be in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown for several days.

Beijing to postpone reopening of kindergartens, schools and universities

The Chinese capital will delay reopening the city’s kindergartens, schools and universities, state-owned China National Radio (CNR) said on its official Weibo page.

The measures are aimed at preventing the spread of the new coronavirus, according to CNR. Schools are currently closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

CNR reported separately that the Beijing government said it would not lock down the city. 

Coronavirus timeline

China postpones National Winter Games

China has indefinitely postponed its 2020 National Winter Games, state media said. 

The games were due to be held in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in February and were described as an important step in preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

They were expected to include skiing, snowboarding and skating competitions along with other winter sports.

Shanghai halts long-distance bus services 

Shanghai’s government said it was suspending all long-distance bus services in or out of the city in an attempt to block the spread of the new coronavirus.

The measure announced by the financial hub’s transportation commission goes into effect immediately.

Taiwan tightens restrictions on China visitors

Taiwan has further tightened restrictions on visitors from China to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, suspending entry for many apart from business travellers and a few other exceptions, including people married to Taiwanese.

Taiwan has already stopped Chinese tour groups from visiting and has now banned all people from Hubei from coming to the island.

Most Chinese citizens will not be allowed in for the time being, aside from people involved in fighting the virus or on humanitarian grounds, the island’s newly established Central Epidemic Command Centre said in a statement.


China’s health commission to hold daily briefings

China‘s National Health Commission will hold daily morning briefings on the new coronavirus outbreak starting on Monday January 27, a spokeswoman from China’s State Council said.

Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread

The new coronavirus from China is now making headlines around the world but the first hint of the outbreak came on December 31.

Read our timeline to find out how the virus spread. 

Virus getting stronger: Chinese health official

China‘s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the transmission ability of the new coronavirus is getting stronger and that the number of infections could continue to rise.


Ma, speaking at a press briefing, also said authorities’ knowledge of the new virus is limited and that they are unclear on the risks posed by mutations of the virus.

Third case confirmed in the United States

A third case of the new coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States.

It is the first case in Orange County, California, health authorities said in a press release, adding that the patient was a traveller from Wuhan and is now in a “good condition” in isolation at a local hospital.

The US has reported two other confirmed cases, one in a man living near Seattle and another in a woman in Chicago.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

China has ordered a temporary ban on the trade of wildlife in markets, supermarkets, restaurants and e-commerce platforms as the country struggles to contain the new coronavirus, which is believed to have been spawned in a marked that sold wild animals as food.

China wildlife trade
The new coronavirus is believed to have originated at a seafood market where wild animals were also sold [File: Stringer via Reuters]

Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” a joint directive from three agencies including the Ministry of Agriculture said. 

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Beijing, said establishments that previously conducted trade in wildlife would be isolated and disinfected.

Shantou city reverses plan for partial lockdown

China’s coastal city of Shantou in Guangdong province will not ban cars, ships and people from entering the city but will strengthen disease controls such as disinfection efforts, local state media STRTV reported, reversing an earlier government statement. 

Chinese Supercup match postponed

A Chinese Supercup clash between Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua scheduled to be played on February 5 will be postponed, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said.

“In conformity with the requirements to prevent and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, and to avoid crowds gathering, the Chinese Football Association has decided to postpone the 2020 CFA Supercup after cautious analysis and assessment,” the CFA said in a statement.

More cities in China impose travel restrictions

The city of Shantou in southern China said non-emergency vehicles would not be allowed into the city and all passengers arriving at train stations would be screened and “urged to return”, in an attempt at “preventing and controlling” the spread of the virus, city officials said.


Buses, ferries, public transport and taxis will also be suspended, Shantou authorities said on their official social media account.

The north-central city of Xian, meanwhile, said it would suspend all long-distance and intercity bus services, as well as taxis and ride-hailing operations from 6pm (10:00 GMT) on Sunday.

US to start Wuhan evacuation on Tuesday

The US State Department said it would move staff at its Wuhan consulate to the United States and offer a limited number of seats to other US citizens on a flight out of the city scheduled for Tuesday.

The flight is scheduled to leave Wuhan on January 28, bound for San Francisco on the west coast of the US. Private individuals at greater risk from the coronavirus will be given priority, the statement said

Hong Kong theme parks to close

Hong Kong‘s popular theme parks Disneyland and Ocean Park have been closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state media CCTV reported.

However the hotels inside Hong Kong Disneyland were operating as normal, CCTV reported.

Disneyland Hong Kong
Hong Kong has joined Shanghai in closing its Disneyland resort amid the outbreak [James Pomfret/Reuters]

Tianjin to suspend long-distance bus services

The northeastern city of Tianjin will halt long-distance bus services from Monday, authorities said.

Officials from the city of about 15 million people announced the move on their official Weibo account, a day after Beijing announced a similar measure.

Death toll rises to 56; Shanghai reports first death

Shanghai – a city of 24.24 million people – reported its first death from the new coronavirus as state media reported the death toll rose to 56 on Saturday.

The number of people infected was 1,975, state media said.

China virus
Some 24.24 million people live in Shanghai [Aly Song/Reuters]

Canada identifies first ‘presumptive’ case of coronavirus

Canada announced its first “presumptive” confirmed case of the coronavirus in a resident who returned last week from Wuhan.

Dr David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said they are 95 percent certain the patient has the new coronavirus, but that more tests were required.


Ontario health officials told a news conference the patient is a man in his 50s, who arrived in Toronto on January 22 and was hospitalised the next day after developing symptoms of respiratory illness.

Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, told reporters that the man is being treated in a public hospital and is in a stable condition.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Death toll rises to 54

The number of deaths from the viral outbreak has risen to 54, with authorities in hard-hit Hubei province reporting 13 new fatalities and 323 new confirmed cases.

The latest numbers from Hubei, the epicentre of the contagion, would put the nationwide total of confirmed infections at 1,610, based on figures previously released by the central government.

Read updates from Saturday, January 25 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies