January 29 coronavirus news

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2:24 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China

A British Airways plane in Toronto, Canada, on October 01, 2019.
A British Airways plane in Toronto, Canada, on October 01, 2019. George Pimentel/Getty Images for British Airways

British Airways has suspended all flights into and out of mainland China, the airline announced on Wednesday.

The decision by British Airways comes as countries step up efforts against the novel coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, and has spread globally.

Read the full British Airways statement:

"We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.
We apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.
Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com."

US airlines: United Airlines also announced Tuesday that it will temporarily reduce its schedule between the US and three Chinese cities -- Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

An airline industry official told CNN that Trump administration officials briefed US airlines Tuesday on measures being taken. In discussions, the White House mentioned the possibility of banning flights to China, but said they are not now issuing such a ban.

The administration would evaluate the situation daily to determine whether more measures need to be taken, the official said.

2:08 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

China denounces Danish cartoon about Wuhan virus for breaching the "ethical boundary of free speech"

From CNN's James Griffiths

The Chinese embassy in Denmark has blasted one of the country's top newspapers for a cartoon about the Wuhan coronavirus that riffed on China's national flag.

The cartoon, published in Jyllands-Posten on Monday, showed the red flag with its yellow stars replaced by virus molecules.

In a statement published online, an embassy spokesperson said the drawing was "an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people."

"Without any sympathy and empathy, it has crossed the bottom line of civilized society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience. We express our strong indignation and demand that Jyllands-Posten and (cartoonist) Niels Bo Bojesen reproach themselves for their mistake and publicly apologize to the Chinese people," it added.

According to Agence France-Presse, Jyllands-Posten's chief editor Jacob Nybroe said the paper would not "dream of" poking fun at the dire situation the virus has caused in China, but refused to apologize "for something we don't think is wrong."

"We have no intention of being demeaning or to mock, nor do we think that the drawing does," Nybroe said. "As far as I can see, this here is about different forms of cultural understanding."

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was quoted by the Politiken newspaper as saying "we have freedom of expression in Denmark. Also to draw".

Jyllands-Posten is no stranger to cartoon controversy. In 2005, it published depictions of the Prophet Mohammed deemed offensive by many Muslims, including one showing the founder of Islam wearing a bomb as a turban. The paper apologized, but the cartoons were seized upon by radical preachers in the Middle East and sparked several riots and attacks on Danish embassies in the region.

3:43 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Here's the latest on the Wuhan virus

T coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and has now spread across Asia and the rest of the world.

Today, Chinese authorities continue to try and contain the virus' spread, while other countries evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. All the while, researchers are racing to learn more about the virus and develop a vaccine.

Here are the latest updates:

  • The numbers: In China, 132 people have died and there are 5,974 confirmed cases -- surpassing the number of Chinese SARS cases during the deadly 2003 outbreak. Globally, there are 6,056 coronavirus cases.
  • It's everywhere in China: Tibet, previously the last uninfected region, announced its first suspected case today. This suggests the coronavirus is no longer just in dense urban areas, but has spread to remote, rural corners of the country. The number of cases in China jumped by almost 1,500 from Tuesday, a more than 30% increase.
  • Global spread: 83 cases outside mainland China have been reported in over a dozen countries. While most of these cases have a direct link to Wuhan, one case confirmed yesterday was a German man who had not been to China -- indicating human-to-human transmission.
  • Evacuations: The US and Japan have already retrieved some of their citizens from Wuhan. Other countries like Australia, France, India, and South Korea are also preparing evacuation plans for hundreds of their citizens in the city.

So what's being done? And what can I do?

  • Chinese response: Chinese officials have effectively quarantined an estimated 60 million people by placing numerous cities under partial or full lockdown. They are now working to assist overstretched hospitals, coordinate with other countries on evacuations, and build an entirely new hospital in Wuhan within a week.
  • Medical breakthrough: There's no vaccine and scientists still don't know a lot about the virus -- but there has been progress. Research teams in Hong Kong and Australia have successfully grown the coronavirus from a patient sample, which will provide international laboratories with crucial information.
  • How to protect yourself: Take the same preventative measures you would during flu season. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and avoid close contact with anyone showing those symptoms. Wash your hands often with soap and water, wear a surgical mask, and disinfect surfaces you touch.

This post has been updated to reflect the status of a suspected case in Tibet.

1:49 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

The US flight carrying Americans out of Wuhan has landed in Alaska

The flight carrying more than 200 US citizens from Wuhan, China has landed in Anchorage, Alaska, according to CNN affiliate KTUU and global aviation tracking site FlightAware.

The Kalitta Air plane is at a gate, and there are several people in contamination suits on the ground below the plane. 

The plane will refuel in Anchorage before continuing on to a military base in California. It had originally been scheduled to land in a civilian airport in California, but the destination change was announced Tuesday night US time.

During the refuel stop, the passengers will also go through health screenings to check for symptoms of the novel coronavirus symptoms, Alaskan officials said.

1:43 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Is Wuhan's mayor being set up to be the fall guy for the virus outbreak?

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

Since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus became international news and a national panic across China, with millions placed under lockdown and travel restrictions and screenings put in place across the country, the city's mayor, Zhou Xianwang, has been prominent in state media coverage of the crisis.

While this could be seen as positive for Zhou, a sign of the central government's faith in him and his leadership on the ground -- it's likely the opposite. His appearances have all come since the central government and President Xi Jinping seized control of the crisis, and after intense criticism of him and other Hubei provincial officials' handling of the initial outbreak online and in state media.

Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang.
Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang. People's Daily/Twitter

In an interview last week, Zhou admitted that the city's warnings were "not sufficient." That followed revelations that Wuhan leaders had gone ahead with a world record pot luck dinner attempt involving 40,000 families, and had held a provincial Party congress after the first cases of the virus were detected.

Zhou has defended his decision-making somewhat, explaining that he did not know the situation was so serious, but recent findings have suggested that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus earlier than previously claimed, and Hubei has been criticized for not instituting screening until January 14.

"We understand that the public is unsatisfied with our information disclosure. On one hand, we failed to disclose relevant information in a timely manner; on the other, we did not make sufficient use of valid information to improve our work," Zhou said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV this week.

"As for the late disclosure, I hope the public can understand that it's an infectious disease, and relevant information should be released according to the law. As a local government, we can only disclose information after being authorized."

He admitted that should they fail to contain the virus, Wuhan officials "might leave a bad name in history," and offered to resign.

"If it's conducive to the control of the virus and the protection of the safety of the people, Ma Guoqiang (the Party chief of Wuhan) and I can shoulder whatever responsibilities," he told CCTV. "We would like to be removed from the office to appease public indignation."

It's likely too early for Zhou and Ma's scalps to be politically useful, however. Were they to be fired now, any further crises down the line would fall directly on the shoulders of the central government and President Xi himself.

Faced with numerous other issues both at home and abroad, Xi can ill afford being blamed for the Wuhan outbreak, and may decide it's more useful to keep two obvious fall guys front and center in the public's imagination to soak up the opprobrium. With the virus expected to continue spreading for several months though, there will likely be more than enough to go around.

1:36 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

What will it take to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world?

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth

The outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus has infected thousands and spread overseas. The world has never had more advanced medical science, but it's also never been so interconnected. So what can be done to stop it from becoming a global epidemic?

Early stages: There's still plenty we don't know about the virus but Chinese authorities believe that it is spreading from human to human, and that people can be infected before symptoms show.

How bad is it? The vast majority of cases so far have not been fatal, with a mortality rate of about 2.3%. But a large proportion of cases are considered "severe" and very few people have been released from hospital.

How are doctors treating it? There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses -- but just like the common cold, doctors can treat the symptoms. Keeping patients isolated in hospital also prevents them from infecting others.

What else can doctors do? The way to stop an outbreak is to work out who a patient has had contact with, and try to stop them from spreading the virus. If those contacts show symptoms, they are immediately tested and their contacts will need to be traced.

What about travel bans? Chinese authorities have shut down transport in and out of Wuhan and at least 10 other cities, effectively quarantining millions of people.

What can the public do? Experts have advised people use face masks as a precaution, even though it's still unclear how the virus is spread or whether masks would stop it. Experts also recommend washing hands with soap and water, sneezing into your elbow, and informing people about what to look out for.

Read the full story here.

1:15 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Supermarkets and stores in parts of Asia are running empty as people load up on supplies

A supermarket in Hong Kong on January 28, 2020.
A supermarket in Hong Kong on January 28, 2020. Mun Ng/CNN

As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise in China and abroad, people are flocking to stores to buy supplies and food.

With many schools and businesses in the region closing for the next few weeks, residents may be looking to hunker down at home to avoid infection. In one Hong Kong supermarket, shelves were mostly empty on Tuesday, soon after the city government announced increased measures to restrict the disease's spread.

Face masks sold out: It's not just Asia, either -- in medical supply stores in central Texas are experiencing a medical mask shortage after a Texas A&M student, having recently traveled to Wuhan, China, may have contracted coronavirus.

There have been reports of face masks being sold out in cities across China, with some residents being mailed boxes of masks from relatives abroad.

Wuhan hospitals are also running low on medical supplies as they struggle to cope with the sheer number of patients. Chinese authorities said this week they were sending additional personnel and supplies to assist.

1:08 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

There's not an elevated risk of Wuhan coronavirus if you're traveling outside of high-impact areas, experts say

From CNN's Marnie Hunter

Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Much is still unknown about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, and health officials are urging vigilance.

That means travelers crisscrossing the globe should be aware of the virus, steer clear of heavily impacted areas and exercise some of the same kinds of preventive measures they'd use to avoid influenza and other illnesses.

But how worried should travelers outside the most impacted areas be about the Wuhan coronavirus?

In this era of global travel, you can never say the risk is zero of being exposed to something, says Dr. Yoko Furuya, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

But most of the cases so far have involved Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei Province.

"While the risk is not going to be zero, generally speaking there's not going to be a particularly elevated risk" outside that area, she says.

It's not a big concern for US travelers traveling domestically, says Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University's division of infectious diseases.

Travelers heading to China should be more concerned, he adds.

"As a matter of fact, I have heard colleagues say to a patient or two, 'Gee, do you have to go to China right now? Why don't you wait a little bit?'"

People who have traveled to Wuhan in the last few weeks and are feeling sick with fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing should seek medical attention right away and call ahead to inform providers of recent travel and symptoms, according to CDC guidelines.

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.