January 24 coronavirus news

By James Griffiths, Tara John and Steve George, CNN

Updated 0138 GMT (0938 HKT) January 25, 2020
24 Posts
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3:30 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

China SARS hero to head national research team to look into Wuhan virus

A national research team of 14 experts has been set up to help prevent and control the latest novel coronavirus outbreak in China, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced Friday, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The anti-virus research team is a part of the ministry's emergency sci-tech project, which was jointly launched with the National Health Commission and other departments at a recent meeting.
The project will offer sci-tech support on 10 research aspects, including virus tracking, virus transmission, detection methods, genome evolution and vaccine development.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China's national health commission, speaks during a press conference in Beijing about a new SARS-like coronavirus, on January 20, 2020.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China's national health commission, speaks during a press conference in Beijing about a new SARS-like coronavirus, on January 20, 2020. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan has been appointed to head the team. Zhong is regarded as one of the heroes in China's fight against SARS in 2003 and has already taken a leading role in tackling the Wuhan virus.

His intervention earlier this month helped raise the alarm after the potential danger of the virus was initially downplayed by Wuhan officials.

3:06 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Beijing and Shanghai launch highest level emergency responses to Wuhan virus

China's two most important cities have launched a Level 1 emergency response -- the highest level for a public health emergency -- to combat the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, according to state broadcaster CGTN.

A total of 29 cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Beijing as of noon on Friday, according to CGTN. More than 20 cases have been confirmed in Shanghai.

Hubei, the province at the center of the virus outbreak, declared a Level 1 response earlier Friday.

According to the South China Morning Post, Level 1 status centralizes the command and co-ordination of provincial-level emergency response work under the State Council in Beijing.

2:21 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Supply of face masks in Hong Kong over Lunar New Year "highly uncertain"

From CNN's Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hong Kong is facing a serious shortage of face masks as fears over the Wuhan coronavirus has seen a rise in demand.

Horace Lau, the vice president of Hong Kong’s General Chamber of Pharmacies, told CNN the next batch of face masks is not expected until February.

"The supply of face masks during the Lunar New Year is highly uncertain," he said.

He added that Hong Kong imports most of its face masks from China, Taiwan and Malaysia, so, if China stops their exports of face masks, supply will be tight. Deliveries could also be affected by the Lunar New Year holiday in both China and Hong Kong.

Lau said that in his own shop he sold over 10,000 boxes of 50 face masks in the last week alone. The price of face masks in pharmacies has already started to rise, he added.

2:17 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Shanghai Disney is closing due to the Wuhan virus

From CNN's Yuli Yang

Shanghai Disney has announced its temporary closure due to concerns over the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Shanghai Disney
Shanghai Disney Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

In a statement, the park said it would be closed from January 25, in order to aid in the "prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests" and employees.

We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and be in close contact with the local government, and we will announce the reopening date upon confirmation.

Shanghai Disney Resort will assist in the refund for guests who have purchased tickets for admission to Shanghai Disneyland, have booked a resort hotel, or have booked tickets for Beauty and the Beast Mandarin Production through the original ticket purchase channel, and we will introduce the detailed procedure and guidelines via the resort’s official platforms as soon as possible.

We wish our guests a healthy and happy Spring Festival!
3:13 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Youngest person to die from Wuhan virus now stands at 36

The Hubei government has released further details regarding seven cases among the 24 deaths related to the Wuhan coronavirus in the province. Among them is a 36-year-old man, surnamed Li, who is the youngest person so far to have died as a result of the virus.

Li was hospitalized on January 9 after three days of fever, and died on January 23. There is no mention of him having any pre-existing conditions.

Previously, the youngest confirmed fatality was 48-years-old, with most casualties in their 60s or older.

12:58 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Videos shared on social media appear to show packed hospitals in Wuhan

From CNN's Yuli Yang

Videos and witness accounts are being shared on Chinese social media of packed and overwhelmed hospitals in Wuhan, the 11 million-strong city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the videos. However, CNN producers have analyzed images in the videos and the dialects of the people speaking and believe them to be genuine. 

The content from these videos matches Chinese state-owned media’s reporting that medical facilities in Wuhan have been overwhelmed with patients.  

In one widely shared video, a hospital corridor can be seen packed with patients.

A female medical practitioner shouts, "Everyone stop speaking! Listen to me! Be quiet!" She instructs medical staff to "get all the people coming for the test results to line up outside," before shouting at patients, "Everyone coming to check their test results, follow this young man to the entrance and line up! Go out first! Line up! Don't be nervous!" 

All voices in this video are speaking in either Wuhan dialect or Mandarin with a Wuhan accent. 

Another video shared on social media appears to show white tents set up outside a hospital in Wuhan. Signage on the tents reads in Chinese characters "China Health." One other sign post in between the tents reads in Chinese characters "Patients' Path." 

Chinese state media previously reported that construction has begun on a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan to help alleviate the rush of patients. The new hospital is expected to be ready by February 3.

12:42 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Chinese authorities are asking the public for information about any alleged cover-ups related to the Wuhan virus

Central government authorities in China are asking people for information about any underreporting or concealment of the facts around the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, according to state broadcaster CGTN.

There have been numerous allegations that officials in Wuhan downplayed the virus in the initial weeks following its discovery.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, which originated in the southern province of Guangdong, local officials there and elsewhere in China actively covered up the extent and danger of that virus.

According to CGTN, China's State Council said it is "welcoming information from citizens about potential issues with the reporting of the new coronavirus."

"This includes cover-ups, attempts to play down the numbers or delayed and incomplete reporting of the outbreak. All information and leads will be investigated, and any issues will be dealt with according to laws and regulations."
12:13 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Virus is just the latest challenge for China's Xi

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

With the Wuhan coronavirus spreading across the country, killing at least 26 people so far, China is now facing a major test of just how much it has changed since 2003, both in terms of the healthcare system's ability to react to a new deadly pathogen -- and crucially, how the central government handles the developing crisis. 

Speaking this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered "all-out efforts" to contain the virus' spread and treat those affected. His intervention seemed to carry with it a clear message: the mistakes of SARS will not be repeated. 

Wuhan is only the latest crisis to face Xi since he secured personal control of the Communist Party, joining the US-China trade war, ongoing anti-government unrest in Hong Kong, and the recent Taiwan election, in which Tsai Ing-wen, much loathed by Beijing, handily won reelection against a more pro-China candidate

More than any leader since Mao Zedong, Xi has centralized power around himself. He is the state, and while this gives him immense control, it also means that every crisis is a test of his leadership -- Wuhan perhaps most of all, as the country looks to their leader for reassurance and confidence.

Read more here

11:57 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Hubei raises public health emergency response to highest level

Authorities in central China's Hubei province have lifted the public health emergency response to Level 1, the highest level, according to state broadcaster CGTN.

Three cities in the province, including the capital Wuhan, center of the coronavirus outbreak, have been placed under travel restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

Hospitals in Wuhan are struggling to handle the intake of patients. A new, 1,000-bed hospital is being built on the outskirts of the city, to be completed by February 3. In the meantime, hospitals have asked for donations of medical supplies, including masks, medical gloves and protective suits, CGTN reported.