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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11:47 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

100 "young Australians" could be repatriated from Wuhan

From Hilary Whiteman in Brisbane

Australia is working on ways to repatriate its citizens from the city of Wuhan, including 100 “young Australians," Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told national broadcaster ABC Radio Monday.

Hunt said he was in touch with the Chinese Foreign Minister as well as other countries on what can be done for its citizens in Wuhan. 

“We are working to make sure there’s support for those Australians and that we are there- we are also working on, as our other countries, to try to secure their ability to return to Australia,” Hunt said.

Hunt also said he expects to get a final results on a fifth suspected cases of the Wuhan coronavirus later Monday.

The Chinese city of Wuhan has become ground zero for the new deadly strain of coronavirus, which has since spread to 13 places outside of mainland China.

Other countries, such as the United States, are also looking to evacuate their citizens from the city, which has been placed under a lockdown.

The US government is arranging a charter flight to evacuate American diplomats and citizens from Wuhan, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN Saturday.

11:34 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

Chinese government's response hints at severity of crisis

From CNN's James Griffiths

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered officials to take more rigorous measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered officials to take more rigorous measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images

The severity of the emerging coronavirus crisis is evident in the Chinese government's response.

The Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party -- the country's top political body, headed by President Xi Jinping -- has taken direct control of operations. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Wuhan Monday to tour local hospitals, according to state media.

And more than 11 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) in government funds have been dedicated to the crisis.

Over the weekend, Xi chaired a meeting with top officials of the ruling Communist Party on the prevention and control of the outbreak.

He pointed out that in facing the grave situation of the accelerating spreading epidemic, it is necessary to strengthen the centralized leadership of the Party Central Committee.

He also demanded that the government at all levels put people’s life and health as the top priority.

"Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it," Xi said.

Read the full story here.

11:22 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

CDC official: We’re "preparing as if this is a pandemic"

From CNN Health’s Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, responded to a statement Sunday by the Chinese health minister Ma Xiaowei that people are infectious before they have symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus.

“We at CDC don’t have clear evidence that patients are infectious before symptom onset, but we are actively investigating that possibility,” she said.

Messonnier said the risk to the American public for contracting this virus continues to be low.

“We need to be preparing as if this is a pandemic, but I continue to hope that it is not,” Messonnier said.

The CDC confirmed Sunday there are five cases of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States – one in Arizona, two in California and two previously confirmed cases in Illinois and Washington. All five cases were in people who had recently traveled in Wuhan, China.

The CDC has about 75 people still under investigation because they might have the virus, and about 25 others who were found not to have the virus. The CDC is the only lab in the United States that tests for the virus.

11:17 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

China goes into emergency mode as spread of Wuhan coronavirus accelerates

From CNN's James Griffiths

A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as she stands looking towards the Forbidden City, which was closed by authorities, in Beijing.
A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as she stands looking towards the Forbidden City, which was closed by authorities, in Beijing. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus now stands at 80, with almost 2,800 cases confirmed across China, as the country initiates emergency procedures to try and rein in the pathogen's global spread.

Making that task more difficult is the fact that the virus can be spread before any symptoms appear, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, meaning carriers may not realize they are infected before they transmit the virus to others.

Across China, 15 cities with a combined population of over 57 million people -- more than the entire population of South Korea -- have been placed under full or partial lockdown.

Wuhan itself has been effectively quarantined, with all routes in and out of the city closed or highly regulated. The government announced it is sending an additional 1,200 health workers -- along with 135 People's Liberation Army medical personnel -- to help the city's stretched hospital staff.

Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang said Sunday the number of cases could rise by another thousand.

The disease has also spread widely across China, with almost 70 cases confirmed in the capital Beijing, including a nine-month-old girl -- the youngest known case to be confirmed so far.

Read the full story here.

11:14 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

Concerns grow for rural populations in containing the spread of coronavirus

China is worried about migrant workers who went home to visit family during the Lunar New Year, according to a health expert speaking at the National Health Commission Monday.

The rural population is also of particular concern as those living in rural areas did not have as much experience in dealing with outbreak prevention as the urban populations did during the 2002-2003 severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

SARS is also a type of coronavirus, which causes flu-like symptoms, and can mutate as it spreads from person to person.

People wait in line to clean their hands May 1, 2003.
People wait in line to clean their hands May 1, 2003. Christian Keenan/Getty Images

Between November 2002 and July 2003, SARS infected over 8,000 people and killed 774 around the world.

Around 40% of China's population live in rural areas, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

The country also has a sustained wave of migrant workers moving from rural to urban areas for employment, with millions making the switch every year.

10:50 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

China calls on those who were in Wuhan to self-quarantine

People wearing protective facemasks are seen while taking a taxi in Wuhan on January 26.
People wearing protective facemasks are seen while taking a taxi in Wuhan on January 26. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese officials have called on anyone who was in Wuhan in the last 14 days to self-quarantine and report their time in the city to community leaders, an expert speaking at a Chinese National Health Commission press briefing said on Monday.

The measure is to prevent the further spread of the new coronavirus, which was first identified in the city in December.

On Sunday, Wuhan’s Mayor Zhou Xianwang said that 5 million people left Wuhan before the lockdown due to the Lunar New Year holiday.

At the briefing, Chinese officials also said that arrangements could be made to further extend the holiday period. The holiday observance has already been extended until February 2 to try and prevent the spread of the virus.

11:07 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

Chinese Premier visits hospitals in Wuhan

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Wuhan on Monday and is touring hospitals, according to state media.

Li is head of a central government working group set up to tackle the outbreak.

Last week he called on local departments to “go all out” to prevent and control the spread of the disease.  

His visit to Wuhan, ground zero for the outbreak, comes as Chinese authorities announced they would extend the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which was supposed to run through January 30, to now run until February 2, according to state news agency Xinhua.

On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired a meeting with top officials of the ruling Communist Party on the prevention and control of the Wuhan coronavirus.

During the meeting, Xi said that in facing the grave situation of the rapid spreading epidemic of the deadly new coronavirus, it was necessary to strengthen the centralized leadership of the Party Central Committee. He also demanded that the government at all levels to put people’s life and health as the top priority.

 "Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it," Xi said.

 Xi ordered officials in Hubei province to take more rigorous measures to prevent the virus from spreading and to put all patients in centralized quarantine for treatment. 

 

10:22 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

HIV and AIDS drugs are being used on Wuhan coronavirus patients in Beijing

From Alex Lin in Hong Kong and CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta

Drugs often used to combat HIV and AIDS are being used to treat patients of the Wuhan coronavirus in Beijing, the city’s Health Commission said in a statement. 

Three designated hospitals are using the drugs Lopinavir and Ritonavir to treat patients as part of a test program titled "Pneumonitis Diagnosis and Treatment Program for New Coronavirus Infection (Trial Edition)."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health told CNN there are currently no proven effective drugs to treat this virus.

The US National Institutes of Health is working on a vaccine against the new virus but it would take a few months until the first phase of the clinical trials get underway and more than a year until a vaccine might be available, Fauci said.

 A team of scientists in Texas, New York and China are also at work on a vaccine, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

10:09 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

China says coronavirus can spread before symptoms show

From CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

China's health minister Ma Xiaowei made a startling statement Sunday about the Wuhan coronavirus: He said people can spread it before they become symptomatic.

"This is a game changer," said Dr. William Schaffner, a longtime adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's much harder to contain a virus -- to track down a patient's contacts and quarantine them immediately -- if the patient was spreading the disease for days or weeks before they even realized they had it.

"It means the infection is much more contagious than we originally thought," said Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "This is worse than we anticipated."

Ma didn't explain why he thinks the virus can be spread before someone has symptoms. If the Chinese health minister is right -- and there are those who doubt him -- that means the five confirmed cases in the United States might have been infectious while traveling from Wuhan to Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington state, even if they had no symptoms at the time.

Read the full story here.