The crisis comes at the crossroads of New Year, when the Chinese take advantage of their seven days off to travel from one end of their country to the other. The epidemic has reached Europe and Australia, despite the strengthening of measures taken to try to stop its spread.
The spread of the coronavirus in China is accelerating. The death toll from the viral pneumonia epidemic has risen to 56 in the country. Nearly 2,000 people are infected, authorities said on Sunday [January 26th] after the warning from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Fifteen new deaths have been recorded, including the first death in Shanghai. At least 688 new cases of coronavirus infections have been confirmed, for a total of 1,975 in the country, according to the national health commission.
Military doctors have been dispatched to Wuhan, the city in central China where the virus, which is currently de facto quarantined, appeared in December, and construction of a second emergency hospital has started. At the limits of the prohibited zone, about twenty kilometers east of the city center, vehicles attempting to cross a motorway toll must turn around. In town, you have to wait hours to be able to see a doctor.
Trains and planes are in principle no longer allowed to leave Wuhan since Thursday. Western countries are mobilizing to organize the evacuation of their nationals in the coming days. The United States announced on Sunday that it would organize the departure of its diplomatic personnel and American citizens, hoping to send a direct flight from Wuhan to San Francisco on Tuesday.
Besides Wuhan, virtually the entire province of Hubei is cut off from the world, bringing the total number of confined inhabitants to over 56 million, almost the population of South Africa. Authorities in Tianjin, 15 million people, for their part announced the suspension from Monday of long distance bus connections, becoming the second major city to take such action after Beijing.
The city of Shantou, more than a thousand km south of Wuhan, had decided to put in place measures to restrict access to all non-essential vehicles, before abandoning them without explanation. Spublic transport will be temporarily suspended for disinfection purposes but that it does not prevent access to vehicles and people arriving from outside. In Hong Kong, where five cases of contamination were recorded, the maximum alert was decreed, leading in particular to school and Disneyland closings.