China on Edge of Chaos: “7 Cities, 23 Million People Under Quarantine”

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(ZH Op-Ed)

Summary:

  • 7 Chinese cities, around 23 million people, effectively under quarantine
  • Multiple cases across the world – from Scotland to Singapore and USA
  • 653 Infected according to Chinese officials (Mainland China: 639 Taiwan: 1 Macau: 2 Hong Kong: 2 Vietnam: 2 Thailand: 3 Singapore: 1 Japan: 1 South Korea: 1 US: 1).
  • 18 Dead (following 1st death outside Wuhan)
  • WHO says “not the time to declare a global health emergency”
  • Patient in Texas recently traveled to Wuhan

* * *

Update (1530ET): 7News reports that an individual suspected of coronavirus infection has been quarantined in Sydney.

* * *

Update (1510ET): Investigators are reportedly examining another potential case of coronavirus in Texas’s Brazos County.

The patient recently traveled from Wuhan and is reportedly suffering from symptoms similar to those who have been infected by the virus.

Meanwhile, a passenger at LAX has been quarantined after showing symptoms of the virus. That patient arrived at LAX from Mexico City and exhibited “disturbing” symptoms, according to health officials, per Fox 5.

This development comes a day after Los Angeles County public health officials said it was “very possible” the area will see at least one patient, given the number of people traveling between the Southland and China.

*  *  *

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Update (1325ET): The World Health Organization, after a second day of meetings, have decided AGAINST declaring an international virus alarm. The panel was reportedly split on the decision and may revise the decision but for now states that “now is not the time” to declare an emergency.

“Make no mistake: This is an emergency in China,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

*  *  *

Update (1300ET): CNBC’s Eunice Yoon just provided a shocking update to the status of the deadly virus in China:

“7 cities and 23 million people are effectively under quarantine.”

The cities under effective martial law – with all travel in, around, and out halted – are Wuhan, Huanggang, Zhijiang, Ezhou, Qianjiang, Chibi, and Xiantao.

That is more people quarantined than the population of Florida (21.6m).

Outside of China, cases keep appearing (map does not include recent cases in Scotland and Ireland):

*  *  *

Update (1150ET): If you haven’t cancelled those tickets to Wuhan yet, you might want to hold off: The State Department has just reverted its safety warning on travel to China to “exercise caution” from “reconsider your travel plans”.

Clearly, somebody in the Chinese government complained, and with US stocks deep in the red, it seems the Trump Administration was perceptive.

After all, the point is to convince the public not to panic.

* * *

Update (1130ET): As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases nears 650 (the latest count put the number at 647), the US State Department has decided to reassure Americans that they are ‘safe’ from the virus.

China has nearly competed its quarantine of four cities in Hubei, even as experts warn it won’t be enough. As millions prepared to travel, George Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the Chinese public to stay home during the holiday season, warning that this was a “crucial time” to stop the virus.

With 444 confirmed cases, Wuhan remains the epicenter of the epidemic. Reports about another virus-related death are circulating on social media, along with a terrifying video of first-responders in full-body gear treating an individual who had seemingly collapsed in the middle of the road.

That’s not exactly reassuring.

Meanwhile, in Wuhan, shortages of medical supplies and facemasks are already prompting hospitals, universities and charities to reach out to the surrounding area for donations.

But sure – everything is under control.

* * *

Update (1045ET): Just in case you had plans to celebrate LNY at a fish market in Wuhan, the US government has published a travel warning advising Americans to ‘reconsider traveling to China’ amid the latest viral outbreak.

  • U.S. URGES TRAVELERS TO RECONSIDER CHINA VISITS DUE TO VIRUS

Even if you made it to Wuhan at this point, one might encounter difficulties trying to enter the city, especially as a foreigner.

* * *

Update (0950ET): The BBC is reporting that a suspected case of coronavirus has been detected in Scotland.

Note: These are only suspected cases – not yet confirmed.

If confirmed, this would be the first case of the virus in the UK, and would indicate another intrusion into the developed world, this time in Europe.

The UK Health Secretary said Friday morning that the coronavirus is “increasingly likely” to hit Britain, the Times of London reports.

According to CNN, the number of coronavirus cases confirmed around the world has climbed to 622 (once again, the graphic below is ever-so-slightly out of date):

And the scramble for face masks continues, with Hong Kong stores swiftly running out of stock, and black-market sellers engaging in widespread gouging of terrified customers.

* * *

Update (0935ET): India’s foreign office said Thursday that an Indian nurse in Saudi Arabia has been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus.

“About 100 Indian nurses mostly from Kerala working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested and none except one nurse was found infected by Corona virus,” tweeted Vellamvelly Muraleedharan, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, on Thursday.

Cases have also been reported in Russia, Hong Kong and Macau, in addition to all of the countries listed below:

Saudi Arabia’s economy depends on millions of migrant workers, a group that includes many Indians.

* * *

Update (0841ET): Beijing says the number of confirmed Wuhan cases in China has climbed to 634, bringing the global total to 641.

Here’s a breakdown of cases by region (though it might be slightly out of date, it gets the point across):

In keeping with China’s insistence that the Wuhan virus is far less deadly than the 2003 SARS outbreak, the SCMP reports that almost half of the 17 people who have succumbed to the virus so far were aged 80 or older, and most of them had pre-existing health conditions. All of those who died, 13 men and four women so far, were from the central province of Hubei, and were treated in hospitals in its capital, Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak. Chinese authorities have quarantined most of the biggest sources in the province.

Here’s some more information on the victims, including the types of illnesses they faced:

At least nine of those who died had pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and Parkinson’s disease. Eight were in their eighties, two in their seventies, five in their sixties and one man was in his fifties. The youngest woman was 48 and had a pre-existing condition.

One 89-year-old man, surnamed Chen, had a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease and other conditions. He began experiencing symptoms on January 13, including difficulty breathing but not fever. Five days later, he was admitted to the Wuhan Union Hospital with severe breathing difficulties, and tested positive for pneumonia. He died the following evening.

The 48-year-old woman, surnamed Yin, had suffered from diabetes and had also had a stroke. She first had a fever, aches and pains on December 10 and her condition slowly deteriorated. She was treated at two hospitals in Wuhan before she died on Monday.

Officials in Beijing have been cautious about making definitive statements about the origins and characteristics of the disease, including its incubation period, saying more investigation was needed.

“There’s still a need for further study of the virus over time,” said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“As for the impact on younger people, according to current epidemiology and what we know right now, they really aren’t susceptible,” he said.

Patients as young as 15 have been infected with the pneumonia-like virus, according to Wuhan health officials. There are now more than 570 confirmed cases, including some reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

* * *

Update (0800ET): CNA, an English-language news website based across Asia, has just reported that Singapore has confirmed the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus.

In a media briefing on Thursday evening, the Ministry of Health said the carrier is a 66-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan. The man arrived in Singapore with his family on Jan. 20 after flying in from Guangzhou via China Southern. The man reported having a soar throat on the flight, but no fever.

Earlier, St. Petersburg reportedly confirmed its third case of the Wuhan virus.

The man traveled to Singapore General on Wednesday, and was immediately placed in isolation. He tested positive for the virus at 6 pm local time on Thursday. Singaporean authorities have already begun a contact tree, and are isolating all those with whom the suspect had contact.

The diagnosis is just the latest indication that, even as more Chinese cities cancel LNY celebrations, too many Chinese, including Chinese from Wuhan, have already traveled abroad. And the week-long holiday doesn’t even start until Saturday.

This live NYT map of confirmed Wuhan cases appears to be out-of-date, despite having just been updated.

The number of confirmed cases is closer to 600. Still, it gets the point across.

* * *

Update (0700ET): Beijing is reportedly planning to quarantine a third city in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, while a fourth city in the province is planning to shut down train travel.

Media reports claim that Chibi, a city with half a million Chinese, will be quarantined like Wuhan and Huanggang. Meanwhile, Ezhou, a city with 1 million people in Hubei, is seeing some transportation shut down.

Meanwhile, officials in Beijing have joined several other Chinese cities in cancelling Chinese New Year celebrations.

Conflicting report are alternatively claiming that Ezhou and Chibi will be the third Chinese city to face a quarantine. Does that mean officials are planning to quarantine the entire province?

There have also been reports about a third patient being identified in St. Petersburg, while other cities, including Hong Kong, stock up on facemask supplies.

* * *

As cases of the new coronavirus popped up around the globe, Chinese health officials managed to assuage the worries of the public, and the market, by insisting that the new, deadly coronavirus that emerged late last month in Wuhan had been ‘contained’ and that the outbreak would swiftly die down.

Despite imposing some draconian travel bans, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this isn’t going to happen. Even after quarantining an entire city of 11 million people – Wuhan is the 7th largest city in China and larger than any US city – experts are warning that it’s too late: The cat is already out of the bag.

But that won’t stop Beijing from trying: Now that Wuhan has been effectively cut off, Chinese officials announced another city-wide quarantine on Thursday: Huanggang city, which is in Hubei province and situated close to Wuhan, will suspend outbound train and bus services, as well as all bus services within the city effective Friday. All public places, including movie theaters, have been ordered to close until further notice, practically guaranteeing that the quarantine will take a bite out of GDP. Though even after authorities cut off all flights, Reuters reports that a few airlines were still running flights out of Wuhan.

As the SCMP pointed out, Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, is five times larger than London.

The decision comes as more than 600 cases of the virus have now been confirmed. The death toll has been steady since yesterday at 17, as the WHO ponders whether to label the outbreak as a global pandemic risk.

Chinese state broadcasters shared images of Wuhan’s ghostly transport hubs, including the Hankou rail station, with all gates barred or blocked. Highway toll booths were shutting down as guards patrolled major highways. Inside the city, residents crowded into hospitals and rushed to buy up essential supplies from supermarkets and gas stations.

Interestingly, at least one Western journalist is reporting from Wuhan. We imagine Beijing allowed ABC access to the city to try and calm the growing panic in the West.

As more barriers rise, one well-known public health expert known for his work on the SARS outbreak warned that the quarantines likely wouldn’t be enough to stop the virus from becoming a global pandemic, according to the New York Times.

Dr. Guan Yi, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong who visited Wuhan earlier this week, warned there was a potential for the virus to spread rapidly despite the controls put in place Thursday morning.

“We have a chance to have a pandemic outbreak,” said Dr. Guan, who was part of the team that identified the coronavirus that caused the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800.

Dr. Guan also told Caixin, an influential Chinese magazine known for investigative reports, that he had traveled to Wuhan earlier in the week hoping to help track the virus’s animal source and control the epidemic. But he left, he said, feeling “powerless, very angry.”

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who advised the Chinese government and the World Health Organization during the SARS outbreak, said that infected people outside Wuhan would continue to spread the disease.

“The horse is already out of the barn,” he said.

Another expert warned that there could already be as many as 4,000 cases of coronavirus in Wuhan, meaning that the vast majority of infections likely haven’t yet been reported.

Meanwhile, regulators around the world are scrambling to cut off flights from Wuhan (even though Beijing has supposedly cut off all rail and plane travel out of the city): The Philippines is the latest country to cut off flights from the city. The country’s Civil Aeronautics Board added that flights from elsewhere in China would be placed under ‘strict monitoring’, according to CNN Philippines. Manila, the Philippines’ crowded capital city, has started handing out 100,000 face masks.

The director of the country’s Civil Aeronautics Board explained that, even though Beijing is quarantining entire cities, it’s up to the Philippines to take their own steps to curb the outbreak.

“When you look at the seriousness of the outbreak, Wuhan should be the focus of attention,” CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla told reporters.

“Even if they lift it, we have to look at our side first and make our own assessment. So our assessment is different from theirs, I mean, even their decision is different from ours,” Arcilla said.

Experts have warned that quarantining an entire city of 11 million would be virtually impossible. But the nabobs in Beijing refuse to be deterred: Videos circulating on social media show Chinese police setting up barricades across roads leading out of the city. Anybody in Wuhan who had New Year’s travel plans should probably cancel them and ask for a refund.

After a suspected case of coronavirus was discovered in Macau yesterday, officials in the special autonomous region warned that they might close all casinos in the territory, a move that would spoil the vacation plans of millions of Chinese planning to travel to Macau for the Chinese New Year. A second case was reportedly discovered on Thursday.

Across the world, a mildly risk-off mood is once again dominating markets. That means US stocks are one outbreak headline away from deeper declines.


By Tyler Durden | ZeroHedge.com | Republished with permission

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