China coronavirus outbreak: Death toll hits 26 as Chinese cities locked down and U.S. tests 12 possible cases

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Authorities in China raced Friday to lock down more cities in an extraordinary bid to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has left at least 26 people dead in the country and sickened hundreds more. The move is unprecedented and affects more than 30 million people.

The U.S. has confirmed one case, and there were 12 other patients being tested for the virus in the U.S. as of Friday morning.

Authorities believe the new coronavirus, which causes flu-like symptoms, moved into the human population from an infected animal at a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Chinese health officials and the World Health Organization confirmed this week that the virus has been transmitted person-to-person, but it remains unclear how easy it is to contract it from another infected individual. The WHO on Thursday declined to declare the virus a global public health emergency, saying it was still too soon to take that measure.

American in Wuhan worries people still getting out
American Scott Allis, an English teacher in Wuhan, told CBS News on Friday that he’s never seen the city of 11 million people so quiet. The government shut his school down, along with all transport in and out of the city, but he’s worried the efforts aren’t enough.

Many businesses were shuttered, public venues were closed, and as CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports, stores and markets are being picked clean of essential goods as fear mounts.

The city’s hospitals, however, were packed, as worried residents flock to seek help.

Allis said he worried the efforts to lock the city down were insufficient to stop the disease spreading, and he was concerned that could bring it back to friends and family in the U.S.

“It’s locked down but it’s not locked down quite enough,” Allis told CBS News. “That’s the part I’m so concerned about, is people are still finding ways out of the city.”

U.S. testing 12 people for the new coronavirus
As of Friday morning there were 10 patients in California, one in Texas, and one in Tennessee being held in isolation, awaiting test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether they have the disease.

Health officials expect to find out over the weekend whether the patient in Texas, who had traveled to Wuhan, is infected.

Officials said if the case is confirmed efforts would begin immediately to try and trace all the individuals who the patient came in contact with to monitor them for symptoms.

There has been only one confirmed case of the new coronavirus in the U.S. thus far, a man who travelled back to Washington state from Wuhan. All of the 26 deaths blamed on the disease have been in China.

Expert says China locked down Wuhan too late
China’s bid to contain the deadly new coronavirus by placing cities of millions under quarantine is an unprecedented undertaking, but it is unlikely to stop the disease spreading, a public health expert has warned.

“I think we have passed the golden period of control and prevention,” said Guan Yi, an expert on viruses at Hong Kong University.

Yi, who returned to Hong Kong from Wuhan just before the lock-down, pointed out that huge numbers of people would have already left ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Friday.

They could have been incubating the virus “on their way out of Wuhan,” he said.

10 cities locked down as death toll hits 26
China was in emergency mode on Friday as the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rose to 830 and the death toll hit 26. On the eve of the country’s biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down in at least 10 cities, affecting about 33 million people in total.

Wuhan, the metropolis at the center of the outbreak and where the majority of the cases have been reported, was the first to lock down all public transport and prevent people leaving. Nine neighboring cities in the central province of Hubei had followed suit by Friday morning, restricting at least most public transport.

Chinese authorities had also canceled all major public events in the capital Beijing indefinitely, including the massive “temple fairs” that normally stand out among New Year celebrations. Beijing’s famed Forbidden City and Disneyland in the business hub of Shanghai also said they would be closed from Saturday.


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