Coronavirus death toll rises to 26, 20 million people on lockdown in China

Coronavirus death toll rises to 26, 20 million people on lockdown in China
Source: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus, together with Huanggang and Ezhou – all located in Hubei province – are currently on lockdown, as 830 people have reportedly been infected with the virus, the last count so far recorded on the morning of January 24 Hong Kong Time (HKT).

A number of 26 people have died from the coronavirus, with 24 deaths taking place in Hubei province, one in Hebei province, which is the first death outside the epicenter, and one more in Heilongjiang – the second outside the epicenter.

All transport in Hubei province has been ordered to be shut down, at a time when millions of Chinese people travel across the country for the Lunar New Year holiday. Beijing has announced that all major Chinese New Year celebrations will be canceled this year.

Medical staff infected

Medical staff treating patients in Wuhan were at the most risk of contracting the virus during the period when human-to-human transmission had not yet been confirmed. The human-to-human transmission confirmation was announced on January 20, which means that medical staff had already handled at least 200 infected patients while not being fully protected.  

Speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong, infectious diseases specialist at Hong Kong University (HKU), Yuen Kwok-yung said that one patient – a highly virulent carrier of the disease – is thought to have infected 14 staff in one hospital alone. About 15 cases of the coronavirus have been officially reported among medical staff in Wuhan, but doctors say that the actual statistics could be higher.

According to the South China Morning Post, medical staff say that ‘even now we don’t have enough protective gear’ but hospital workers have ‘no option’ but to continue working.

Unconfirmed footage

Unconfirmed footage of people allegedly infected with the virus collapsing on streets in China has been circulating on social media, causing panic.

Netizens have also blamed the state government for underreporting the severity of the virus outbreak in Wuhan. China’s top leaders have warned lower-level officials not to cover up the spread of the highly infectious virus.

WHO response

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the new coronavirus, temporarily referred to as 2019-nCoV, has yet to constitute an international emergency but the organization is working to track its evolution “every minute.”

“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on January 23.