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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11:07 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.

10:06 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

Four cases of Wuhan coronavirus now confirmed in South Korea

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

South Korea confirmed its fourth case of the Wuhan coronavirus on Monday.

The patient is a 55-year-old South Korea man who had tested positive for the virus after visiting Wuhan.

Major airports across South Korea have stepped up efforts to detect signs of the virus, health authorities have also bolstered quarantine and testing facilities.

9:57 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

New details on Arizona coronavirus patient

From CNN Health’s Amanda Sealy

Another case of coronavirus has been confirmed, in Arizona, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday, bringing the total to five cases in the United States.

The state health department said the patient is an adult member of the Arizona State University community, though it did not release the patient’s age or gender. 

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told CNN that the patient had recently returned from travel to Wuhan, and that they called their health care provider once they developed mild respiratory symptoms. Christ added that the patient was asymptomatic -- not showing symptoms -- during travel.

Health officials decided to test the patient for the coronavirus and sent samples to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, which were confirmed positive on Sunday.

The patient is currently not hospitalized, but self-isolated at home. Public health officials will be following up with any close contacts of the patient during the time period when they were symptomatic.

9:56 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

Five Wuhan coronavirus cases now confirmed in the US

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen and Jamie Gumbrecht

 A Japan Airlines worker, center, wears a face mask while working inside a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on January 23,  in Los Angeles, California, where screening was taking place for some incoming international passengers.
A Japan Airlines worker, center, wears a face mask while working inside a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on January 23, in Los Angeles, California, where screening was taking place for some incoming international passengers. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Five cases of Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday.

One new case was confirmed in Arizona and two cases were confirmed in California. Cases had previously been confirmed in Illinois and Washington state. All the cases were in people who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China.

Several people have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus in the US -- including a man in his 30s in Washington state; a Chicago woman in her 60s; a man in his 50s in Orange County, California, a patient in Los Angeles County; and a fifth in Arizona. All had recently traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

State and federal officials are following up with anyone who may have had close contact with the person and is at risk of infection.

Read more on that here.

9:47 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

China's unprecedented quarantines could have wider consequences, experts say

From CNN's Dakin Andone

Chinese police officers wearing masks stand in front of the Tiananmen Gate on January 26.
Chinese police officers wearing masks stand in front of the Tiananmen Gate on January 26. Betsy Joles/Getty Images

With Chinese authorities warning the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating, placing millions of people in more than a dozen Chinese cities under intense travel restrictions might seem like a good idea.

But historically a mass quarantine is an aggressive response that's far from perfect. In the past it has led to political, financial and social consequences. 

Quarantines date back to Italy in the 1300s, as the bubonic plague ravaged Europe. In Venice, sailors and ships coming from infected ports were made to wait 40 days before docking in a practice called "quaranta giorni," or "40 days."

No quarantine goes perfectly: People criticize quarantines because in practice a virus or bacteria "invariably gets loose," as do people, said Howard Markel, professor and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

Logistical issues: Just the word "quarantine" can cause panic or hysteria, Markel said. Anyone concerned about a common cold or sniffle will head for hospitals, straining already precious resources. Wuhan officials have already acknowledged local hospitals were struggling to accommodate people seeking medical attention.

Broader financial consequences: Quarantines "are often very economically and financially costly," said Alexandre White, an assistant professor of sociology and the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. The flow of trade in and out of the quarantined zone is halted, and goods in the process of being shipped could go bad -- depending on how long it lasts. 

Social impacts: Historically, the aggressive control needed in a quarantine can link the disease to marginalized people and potentially fuel existing anxieties about race and class. There was a "long history of quarantine being misused as a social separator, rather than a public health one," Markel said.

Trust and cooperation are key: The trust and cooperation of the public is the most important thing for officials to have in a public health crisis, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization's Center on Global Health Law. Without it, people won't come in for testing and won't share the names of people they've been in contact with -- a vital part of the strategy to prevent the spread of disease.

Read more on that here.

9:41 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

8 Wuhan coronavirus cases now confirmed in Thailand

Eight cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Sunday, according to a government statement.

Among the eight, five have already returned home, while three are being treated in the hospitals and supervised by the Ministry of Public Health, the statement says.

Thailand is among the most popular global destinations for Chinese tourists. More than ten million Chinese visit Thailand every year, according to official figures.

9:36 p.m. ET, January 26, 2020

80 dead, 2,744 cases have now been confirmed in mainland China

The Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread around the world having already killed dozens of people and infected more than 2,700 people in mainland China.

Here's the latest numbers:

  • As of the end of the day Sunday, 2,744 cases were confirmed in mainland China.
  • 80 people are dead, all in mainland China.
  • 55 people outside mainland China have tested positive in the following places: Australia (4 cases), France (3 cases), Hong Kong (8 cases), Japan (4 cases), Macao (5 cases), Malaysia (4 cases), Nepal (1 case), Singapore (4 cases), South Korea (3 cases), Taiwan (4 cases), Thailand (8 cases), United States (5 cases) and Vietnam (2 cases)

China’s National Health Commission said 461 people have severe cases of the virus and there are 5,794 suspected cases in mainland China.