January 27 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Sheena McKenzie and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 1:18 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020
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4:49 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

People need to be prepared for this to become a global epidemic: Hong Kong expert

Gabriel Leung, chair professor of public health medicine at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong,
Gabriel Leung, chair professor of public health medicine at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The number of people infected by the Wuhan coronavirus could potentially double every six days in the absence of a major intervention by public health authorities, according to Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Leung, who is also the founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infection Disease Epidemiology and Control in Hong Kong, gave his forecast on the likely extent of the outbreak during a press conference held at HKU on Monday afternoon.

He said he had submitted his report to Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Leung said according to his team’s model, the number of cases of Wuhan coronavirus including patients that are incubating (not showing symptoms) could approach 44,000 cases as of January 25. 

This epidemic is growing at quite a fast rate and it’s accelerating,” said Leung.

The results of two scenarios -- one with a population quarantine as has been seen in Wuhan and one without -- were almost identical, suggesting “population quarantine may not be able to substantially change the course of the epidemic in the other major city clusters.”

In addition to Wuhan, Leung warned China could see epicenters of self-sustaining epidemics in other major cities in the mainland, including in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

"It is not a prediction, it is not certain, but these finding makes us concerned enough to alert the authorities and to alert the public,” Leung said.

According to Leung's forecast, the number of cases could peak between mid-May and mid-April in major cities. 

In order to prevent this from happening, there would need to be “substantial draconian measures limiting population mobility sooner rather than later,” said Leung.

Leung said people need to be prepared for the outbreak to become a global epidemic, though it is "not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination…we must prepare better for it.”

4:07 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Get caught up: here's the latest on the outbreak

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

There are more than 2,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 80 deaths in China. Worldwide concern is mounting about the rate of its spread. 

Here's what you need to know:

  • Outbreak in China: 2,744 cases have been confirmed in mainland China, and 80 people are dead. There are full or partial lockdowns in 15 Chinese cities in an effort to limit the virus's spread.
  • Global spread: There are more than 50 cases confirmed around the world, in the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, France, Australia, and more. Some countries are trying to evacuate their citizens out of Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
  • Contagious before symptoms: People can spread the virus before symptoms show, China warned on Sunday -- meaning people may have been spreading the virus without knowing they were ill.
  • Transmission: The major transmission mode of the coronavirus is through “close range droplet transmission,” Feng Luzhao, researcher from the Chinese Disease Prevention and Control Center, said. His comments suggest that most people have contracted the virus by being in close contact with an infected person.
  • Stretched hospitals: A nurse from the Central Hospital of Wuhan tells CNN at least a dozen medical staff from the facility are infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. Videos and witness accounts in Wuhan show packed hospitals and overworked staff. About 1,600 medical professionals are being sent to the city on Sunday and Monday.

1:18 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Here's a breakdown of where the coronavirus has spread through China

UPDATE: A previous version of this post contained a graphic that mapped coronavirus cases using raw counts instead of normalized rates. The graphic has been removed. 

3:39 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

CDC and LAX assisting in LA coronavirus contact tracing

From CNN Health’s Nadia Kounang

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport  on January 22.
Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport on January 22. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

After a person in Los Angeles County tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus, efforts are being ramped up to trace everyone the patient came into contact with.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Los Angeles International Airport are assisting in contact tracing, along with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Contact tracing is defined as the identification and follow-up of people who may have come into contact with an infected person, according to the World Health Organization.

During a press conference Sunday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that her department is working, “with the individual who is infected, along with the airport – LAX – and CDC to identify persons who may have had close personal contact with this individual.”

Ferrer said the patient, who is a resident of Wuhan, ground zero for the outbreak, had previously transited through LAX.

The individual presented themselves to health care authorities on January 22, saying they were ill. They were assessed by health care authorities and brought to a hospital in Los Angeles, where the patient remains.

The health department provided no further details about the patient’s condition, gender or age, or how many people have been contacted through their investigation.

The agency also announced at the press conference that all travelers coming from China through LAX are currently being screened.

The Los Angeles patient is one of two confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus in California. The other is in Orange County. The CDC on Sunday afternoon updated the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States to five.

3:28 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Germany's Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to China

The German Foreign Office has put out an updated travel advisory for China regarding the Wuhan coronavirus.

It is advising German citizens to:

  • consider postponing travel to China if it's not urgent
  • register at one of the German government crisis preventive lists if you're in China
  • avoid travel to the province of Hubei
  • plan for travel restrictions in the area
  • obey the orders of local security forces 
  • take into consideration the World Health Organization advisories as well as those from the Robert-Koch institute, the German government agency responsible for disease control and prevention.

3:16 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

A holiday village in Hong Kong has become a coronavirus quarantine camp

An aerial view shows the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Hong Kong.
An aerial view shows the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Hong Kong. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Set within a protected area of the picturesque Sai Kung Country Park, the 13.2-hectare Lady MacLehose Holiday Village is known for its greenery and tranquility.

Since the early 1980s Hong Kongers have come to the holiday village to get away from the bustling city and enjoy its camping facilities and outdoor activities.

But since January 23, the holiday camp has been turned into a quarantine center to house those who have came into close contact with confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong.

A check-point has been set up at the entrance of the village and police monitor those going in and out.

According to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village can accommodate 268 residential campers and has 52 standalone bungalows.

The Hong Kong government has also turned the Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village on Hong Kong island into a quarantine center and plans to do the same with a third facility.

"To cope with the quarantine need in future, the DH (Department of Health) is contacting holiday villages under other non-governmental organizations as potential sites of quarantine centers," a government statement said Sunday.

Hong Kong police man a checkpoint at the entrance to the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village ,which is being used as one of two quarantine centers.
Hong Kong police man a checkpoint at the entrance to the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village ,which is being used as one of two quarantine centers.  ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

However, there were protests in the northern Hong Kong town of Fanling -- near the Chinese border -- after it was announced that an unoccupied apartment building there would be converted to a "temporary" quarantine center. Residents set up roadblocks and clashed with police, and on Sunday the authorities said they were abandoning the plan.

Hong Kong authorities said residents of Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital, and people who have visited the region in the last 14 days, will not be able to enter the city. The order does not cover Hong Kong residents, though they may be placed under quarantine.

Hong Kong has eight confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.

3:02 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Each confirmed patient infects 2 to 3 people, say British scientists

A medical staff member takes the temperature of a man at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on January 25.
A medical staff member takes the temperature of a man at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on January 25. Hector Retaamal/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists at Imperial College London have estimated that each person infected with the Wuhan coronavirus has gone on to infect two to three people, according to a report released Saturday.

"We estimate that, on average, each case infected 2.6 (uncertainty range: 1.5-3.5) other people up to January 18, 2020, based on an analysis combining our past estimates of the size of the outbreak in Wuhan with computational modeling of potential epidemic trajectories,” said the report.

“This implies that control measures need to block well over 60% of transmission to be effective in controlling the outbreak,” it added.

When it comes to outbreaks, scientists and public health experts are concerned with how quickly a disease can spread and its mortality rate.

But there is still a lot more to learn about the virus, and scientists have warned against alarmism.

“It is quite easy to get fixed on a particular number but such predicted numbers will vary considerably at this early stage in an epidemic,” Mike Turner, Director of Science, The Wellcome Trust, said in a statement.

“What is becoming clear from several sources though is that there is substantive human to human transmission and that there may well be a lot of people who become infected but have no symptoms or very mild symptoms so don’t need to seek medical attention,” he added.

“This makes it more difficult to put in place effective control measures. A lot of people are working furiously to try and control this epidemic.”

On Sunday, Chinese officials said people can spread the virus before they have symptoms.

2:47 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

China's unprecedented reaction to the Wuhan virus probably couldn't be pulled off in any other country

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

A police officer stands guard outside of Huanan Seafood Wholesale market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan.
A police officer stands guard outside of Huanan Seafood Wholesale market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

As the world watches the developing crisis around the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, it's difficult to know how worried to be. One thing is clear, however: China is treating the matter extremely seriously.

Almost 60 million on lockdown: With the number of confirmed cases in the country approaching three thousand, and at least 80 deaths, China has placed almost 60 million people on lockdown, with full or partial travel restrictions on 15 cities across Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital.

Never been done in China before: The unprecedented scale of the response speaks in part to the sheer size of China -- 60 million people is greater than the entire population of South Korea, and Hubei spans the equivalent area as Syria. Such a lockdown has never been carried out in China before, not even during the 2003 SARS outbreak. The cost of it is staggering, not just in terms of manpower or funds, but also the economic hit Hubei will take and the knock on effect this will have on the wider Chinese economy during a sensitive period.

Powerful leadership: That China is able to pull something like this off is thanks to the ability of a centralized, powerful leadership to react in a crisis. It's also a sign of just how vital it is for that leadership not to screw up

Writing on Sunday, analysts Adam Ni and Yun Jiang said that the Chinese Communist Party's "prestige and legitimacy are both on the line" in how they handle the crisis. 

"Xi's prestige is likely to take a hit, putting pressure towards collective leadership instead of the paramount leader model. Centralization of power under Xi means that inevitably Xi will take the blame if things go wrong, as would he be showered with glory when things go right. This is high risk, high reward for him."

Read the full story here.

2:37 a.m. ET, January 27, 2020

US evacuation flight out of Wuhan may no longer head to San Francisco

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing

A United States government-chartered plane is set to evacuate about three dozen US diplomats and their families from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, on Tuesday.

But the plane may not fly to San Francisco as previously announced by the State Department, a US official with knowledge to the matter told CNN.

The flight, operated by a private charter company using a Boeing 767 with 240 seats, will land somewhere in California, the official said.

It’s unclear how many non-diplomat US citizens will be aboard the flight, which will be staffed with medical personnel.

The US consulate in Wuhan, which is now closed, reached out to Americans who had registered with them and offered seats on the plane. Non-diplomat US citizens will be billed for the flight, the official said.

The city is normally a transport hub for central China, but Chinese authorities have placed Wuhan under a travel lockdown, barring all departures from the city’s airport and rail stations.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday that after the US proposed to evacuate its citizens from the city, Beijing made arrangements, “that are consistent with our epidemic control measures” and provided “necessary assistance and convenience.”

Other nations, such as Australia and India, are working on ways to repatriate their citizens from Wuhan.