January 23 coronavirus news
With the news that public transport -- including planes and trains -- leaving Wuhan would be "temporarily closed" from Thursday morning, the CNN team on the ground had to scramble to get out of the city.
2:50 a.m. China time Colleagues in Beijing and Atlanta were the first to learn of the news and decided to pull the team out rather than risk them being stuck in Wuhan for an indefinite period.
Doing so wouldn't prove straightforward, however. There were only three flights to Beijing before 10 a.m., when the shutdown would come into effect, and all were almost full and carried with them the major uncertainty over what would happen if there were delays -- would departures be called off if they dragged on beyond cut-off time?
Roads were not mentioned in the announcement about the closures, but there was already reports on social media of police blocking highways, so Atlanta and Beijing decided the team should get a train out.
3:00 a.m. Woken early by colleagues in Beijing, the team rushed to the closest train station, where they found a flurry of other passengers with the same idea. Families unloading their cars and hurrying to get into lines that already stretched outside the doors; it seems they too got the message and wanted to get out.
4:00 a.m. After almost an hour queuing for tickets, the team was able to secure seats on a 7 a.m. high-speed train headed back to Beijing -- but from another station across town, one closer to the city center, within a few blocks of the Huanan Seafood Market, the suspected epicenter of the viral outbreak.
Walking out of the first train station, the team was approached by one woman offering to drive people to a city about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Wuhan. She wanted $300 for the journey.
5:00 a.m. Driving through Wuhan en route to Hankou railway station, the team saw groups of people standing at the sides of the road, luggage at their sides, face masks on. It was not immediately clear what they were waiting for, but they were seemingly prepared for a long journey.
Arriving at Wuhan's central station, the team watched as dozens of passengers busily filed through the security screening. Officials were also using thermal detectors to scan for potential fevers. Just outside the main door, a man who looked to be in his late 60s, sat with a box of unopened face masks. He was selling them for about $1.75 each.
6:00 a.m. Inside Hankou station, the crowds were shoulder to shoulder. It was difficult to distinguish between planned holiday travelers -- Lunar New Year being two days away -- and fellow last-minute departures. The only people who stood out were the few who had left their faces uncovered. Others took the opposite approach: one woman had covered her face, hands, head and body with a plastic poncho. Some wore hair nets, while others doubled up on face masks.
6.55 a.m. As the final boarding calls were made, passengers rushed from the platform onto the train. One young couple walked up to the door with their son and an elderly man. They told CNN they were sending the child with his grandfather to stay with family out of town. But they didn't want to unnecessarily risk exposing out of town relatives to the illness so were staying back in Wuhan themselves.
7:00 a.m. As the train departed Wuhan, staff were all wearing masks, only 36 hours after they were reportedly told by management not to, so as to avoid a panic. It was still dark as the train left the city, but as it forged ahead the sun rose amid thick smog and morning mist.
At least 17 people are dead in China and more than 500 infected as the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread throughout Asia and across the world.
As China continues to try and contain the Wuhan coronavirus ahead of the main Lunar New Year travel rush, officials took the largely unprecedented step of ordering a partial lockdown of the city of 11 million people.
From 10 a.m. local time (9 p.m. ET), all public transport, including planes and trains, has been "temporarily suspended."
What exactly this means, and how long the "temporary" suspension will continue is currently unclear -- the majority of travel during Lunar New Year takes place on roads by private vehicle.
Even with the roads remaining open, the scale of the challenge facing authorities is immense. For the purpose of comparison, imagine closing down all transport links for a city more than three times the size of Chicago, two days before Christmas.
Extra screening protocols have also been put in place in airports outside of China, including in the US, where the first case of the virus was confirmed Wednesday.
Following a meeting in Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) officials decided not to declare a public health emergency over the Wuhan virus. They will meet again Thursday to discuss whether further action is needed.
Washington state health officials said Wednesday that investigators have identified 16 “close contacts” of a 30-year-old man who is the first confirmed case of coronavirus diagnosed in the United States.
The Snohomish County resident, who has not been named, identified people that he has interacted with since returning from Wuhan. Those named will be actively monitored for signs of any illness by local health officials.
Health officials said that they consider a “close contact” to be anyone who is within 6 feet of an infected person, like having a meal or meetings together, but that they are not asking those contacts to isolate themselves unless they have symptoms.
Health staff will reach out to the contacts daily to see if they have a fever or cough and to check if they develop any symptoms. Dr. Chris Spitters, the health officer for the Snohomish Health District, said there is also a call center set up to take resident’s questions about the virus.
Above, a photograph shows queues at Wuchang train station in Wuhan, China. Starting on Thursday morning local time, all city transportation will halt, including local buses, ferries, long-distance buses and subways. Wuhan's airport and railway stations will be "temporarily closed" for departing passengers.