January 29 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Steve George and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 11:44 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020
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1:04 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

How does this coronavirus compare with other outbreaks?

The Wuhan coronavirus has sparked fears of a new global epidemic, as it spreads across Asia and around the world.

For those in China and Hong Kong, it's particularly reminiscent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that killed 774 people in 2003, more than 280 of them in Hong Kong.

Rapid spread: This novel coronavirus now has more confirmed cases that SARS did, suggesting it is spreading more rapidly -- which could be due to it being more contagious, or China being more interconnected than 2003.

Mortality: The coronavirus is far less deadly than SARS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The coronavirus' mortality rate is around 2.2%, compared to around 10% for SARS and 34% for MERS.

Instead, the coronavirus appears to be about as deadly as seasonal influenza, which claims the lives of thousands of people every year. A 2019 study by Chinese scientists showed that influenza in China has a mortality rate of 1.6% to 2.6%.

However, the mortality rate for the coronavirus may continue to change as more cases and possible deaths develop.

12:35 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

There are more than 4,000 Wuhan tourists still overseas

From CNN's Nectar Gan

Chinese tourists in Bali, Indonesia, on January 27, 2020.
Chinese tourists in Bali, Indonesia, on January 27, 2020. SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images

As of Monday, there were still 4,096 Wuhan tourists overseas, according to the city's Culture and Tourism Bureau.

In an open letter online, the bureau said all tour groups were cancelled when the city's lockdown was announced last week. Groups that left prior to the lockdown are still slowly returning to Wuhan now, the letter said.

Those who are still overseas are expected to return to Wuhan in the coming days.

The lockdown: It was put in place last week as a measure aiming to limit the spread of the virus, effectively stopping all movement in or out of the city. Some have praised it as a bold and decisive move -- but it has also taken a toll.

Wuhan citizens like the tourists abroad have found themselves stranded, watching the death toll rise in the city day by day.

Meanwhile, foreign citizens inside Wuhan are now being evacuated out with planes sent by their home countries. Planes from the US and Japan have already departed with their citizens on board. Other countries like Australia, South Korea, and India are also planning evacuations.

For those inside Wuhan, there's no plane coming to rescue them. In desperation, many flocked to train stations the morning before the lockdown went into effect, cramming into the last trains out of the city -- a controversy in itself, with some Chinese citizens in other cities accusing the evacuees of potentially spreading the virus further.

12:30 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Foreign citizens are being evacuated out of Wuhan

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Wuhan and wider Hubei province, several countries are taking action to repatriate their citizens in the affected areas.

Countries that have launched evacuations:

  • The US: A plane carrying about 240 Americans, including diplomats and their families, has departed Wuhan and is en route to Alaska, where it will refuel before arriving early Wednesday in Ontario, California.
  • Japan: 206 Japanese citizens were evacuated from Wuhan and arrived in Tokyo Wednesday morning local time. All those on board have been quarantined, and those with symptoms will be taken to a medical center for treatment. About 450 more Japanese citizens have not yet left Wuhan.

Countries planning for evacuations:

  • Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would evacuate "all Australians out of the Hubei province ... focusing on the young, especially infants and the elderly." There are more than 600 Australian citizens in the Hubei, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.
  • New Zealand: The New Zealand and Australian governments have discussed a “joint ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) assisted departure” of their citizens from Wuhan, though specific evacuation details are still being worked out.
  • India: The Indian government has begun the process of "preparing to evacuate" Indian nationals affected by situation in Hubei Province, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
  • South Korea: Four charter planes will evacuate South Korean citizens from Wuhan, said a government spokesperson today. Almost 700 South Korean citizens have applied to take the flight out.
  • France: A plane will fly French citizens back from Wuhan to France sometime this week, said the French Health Minister on said Sunday. There are around 800 French citizens in Wuhan.
  • United Kingdom: The UK is "looking at all the options" to help Britons trapped in Wuhan, said the UK Home Secretary after being asked about the possibility of evacuation flights.
12:19 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

How to protect yourself as Wuhan coronavirus spreads

From CNN's Holly Yan

Nearly all of the confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus are in China, but the virus has spread across Asia and the rest of the world.

If you're worried, here are some tips for protecting yourself:

  • Know the symptoms: Other symptoms of this coronavirus include fever and shortness of breath. Severe cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
  • About meat and animals: Scientists believe this coronavirus started in another animal and then spread to humans. So health officials recommend cooking meat and eggs thoroughly. Anyone with underlying medical conditions should avoid live animal markets and raw meats altogether, since those people are "considered at higher risk of severe disease," the World Health Organization says.
  • Take normal flu season precautions: In general, the public should do "what you do every cold and flu season," said Dr. John Wiesman, the health secretary in Washington state — where the first US case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed. That includes washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you feel sick: If you're the one feeling sick, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch. If you or your doctor suspect you might have the Wuhan coronavirus, the US Center for Disease Control advises wearing a surgical mask.

12:07 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

New Zealand to evacuate citizens from Wuhan in joint operation with Australia

From CNN's Jake Kwon in Hong Kong

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have discussed a “joint ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) assisted departure” of their citizens from Wuhan, according to a press release shared by the New Zealand government on Wednesday.

Ardern said that “specific details of the evacuation plan, including the medical protocols that will be applied to returning New Zealanders and access arrangements on the ground in China are being worked through by officials.” 

Earlier in the week, New Zealand’s Health Minister said that the government had been “working closely with international partners and the government’s Interagency Pandemic Group has also been convened to ensure New Zealand is prepared.”

11:58 p.m. ET, January 28, 2020

US evacuation flight is now headed to a military base, not to a civilian airport

Around 240 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, will be flown to a military base near Riverside County, California, instead of a nearby civilian airport as first planned.

The flight departed Wuhan about six hours ago, and will land late Tuesday night local time in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel.

Passengers will undergo health screenings there to ensure they are not experiencing novel coronavirus symptoms before traveling on to California, Alaska officials said.

The plane will land at March Air Reserve Base instead of its original destination of California's Ontario International Airport, said San Bernardino County Commissioner Curt Hagman.

In a video statement, Hagman said he was informed of the change in plans on Tuesday night. No reason was immediately given for the change in itinerary.

3:24 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Tibet reports suspected case of coronavirus

Authorities in China reported the first suspected case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Tibet, the only region to have avoided the virus so far.

The potential spread to Tibet will renew concerns about how easily the virus is transmitted, particularly when people are asymptomatic.

On Tuesday, Tibet announced the indefinite closure of all tourist attractions, state-run newspaper People’s Daily reported, citing the regional Communist Party committee.

All travelers, including tourists, entering Tibet are now required to register with authorities and be quarantined for 14 days.

Tibet is a remote and mountainous autonomous region of mainland China that is often referred to as the "the roof of the world."

Read the full story here.

This post has been amended to clarify it is a suspected case in Tibet.

11:18 p.m. ET, January 28, 2020

Hong Kong suspends trains to China as borders close

Security personnel at the high-speed railway station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China on January 28, 2020.
Security personnel at the high-speed railway station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China on January 28, 2020. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, which borders mainland China on the country's south coast, is just one of several places around Asia placing restrictions on travel in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In a press conference yesterday, the government announced that it will "temporarily" close some of its borders with China and stop issuing travel permits to Chinese tourists.

Trains to China suspended: Today, the MTR -- Hong Kong's subway operator -- announced it would also be suspending services for the high speed rail that connects the city with the mainland, as well as trains to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing.

"The MTR Corporation has been closely monitoring the latest situation regarding pneumonia cases from the novel coronavirus infection," said the company in a statement, and apologized for inconvenience caused.

1:31 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Australia lab grows Wuhan coronavirus from patient sample

A screengrab from a video shows coronavirus microscopic view.
A screengrab from a video shows coronavirus microscopic view. Dhoerty Institute, University of Melbourne

A laboratory in Australia has grown the Wuhan coronavirus from a patient sample.

The development “will provide expert international laboratories with crucial information to help combat the virus," Mike Catton, director of the Victorian infectious diseases reference laboratory said.

“We are proud to have grown the virus in such a short space of time,” Catton said, adding that they will “share this with international colleagues” to help with the developments of vaccines and medicines.

The successful growth will help scientists to “understand the epidemiology of the outbreak," Catton said.

A clinical professor at Hong Kong University, John Nicholls, told CNN that his team in Hong Kong has also been able to grow the virus a few days ago during Chinese New Year.

Since the first case was identified in early December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, more than 6,000 people have become infected worldwide.

This post has been amended to include the Hong Kong University team.