January 23 coronavirus news

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12:12 a.m. ET, January 23, 2020

The World Health Organization may decide today if the Wuhan coronavirus constitutes a global emergency

From CNN Health’s Michael Nedelman

The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding a meeting today where it could decide whether the spread of the Wuhan virus constitutes "a public health emergency of international concern."

The WHO held a similar meeting yesterday but delayed its decision, due to a lack of information.

"The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Wednesday. 

"Today, there was an excellent discussion during committee meeting but it was also clear that to proceed, we need more information," he said.

The WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern as "an extraordinary event" that constitutes a "public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and "to potentially require a coordinated international response." Previous emergencies have included Ebola, Zika and H1N1.

12:15 a.m. ET, January 23, 2020

China has reported a total of 581 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus

From CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing and Yuli Yang in Hong Kong

Health officials in China have confirmed a total of 581 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus across 25 provinces as of mid-day Thursday, according to official statistics. Those figures do not include cases in the special administrative regions of Macao and Hong Kong or in the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Chinese National Health Commission said in a statement Thursday that as of the end of the day Wednesday:

  • 5,897 people have been found to have had close contact with infected people
  • 4,928 are undergoing medical observation
  • 969 people have been discharged from medical observation
  • 393 suspected cases were identified across 13 provinces, regions and municipalities
  • 95 cases are being qualified as "severe"
  • 17 people have died, all in Hubei province

On Wednesday alone:

  • 257 suspected cases were identified across 13 provinces
  • 131 new cases were confirmed across 24 provinces
  • 8 people died in Hubei province, five men and three women
11:41 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Macao has confirmed a second case of the Wuhan coronavirus

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Macao’s Health Bureau said a second case of the Wuhan coronavirus has been identified in the city.

In a statement, the Health Bureau says the patient was a 66-year-old male tourist from Wuhan. He was screened on arrival into Macao, where officials detected he had a high temperature. He was immediately sent to the hospital, where he tested positive for the new coronavirus.

11:47 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Snakes could be the source of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

From The Conversation's Haitao Guo, Guangxiang "George" Luo and Shou-Jiang Gao

Snakes -- the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra -- may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter.

The many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus), also known as the Taiwanese krait or the Chinese krait, is a highly venomous species of elapid snake found in much of central and southern China and Southeast Asia.

The illness was first reported in late December 2019 in Wuhan, a major city in central China, and has been rapidly spreading. Since then, sick travelers from Wuhan have infected people in China and other countries, including the United States.

Using samples of the virus isolated from patients, scientists in China have determined the genetic code of the virus and used microscopes to photograph it. The pathogen responsible for this pandemic is a new coronavirus. It's in the same family of viruses as the well-known severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which have killed hundreds of people in the past 17 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

Read more here from The Conversation

11:20 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Macao just canceled its Lunar New Year celebrations

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Commuters wear face masks as they travel in a bus in Macau on Wednesday.
Commuters wear face masks as they travel in a bus in Macau on Wednesday. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Macao’s Government Tourism Office has announced all Lunar New Year festivities are being canceled “due to the Wuhan coronavirus."

The semi-autonomous Chinese city and gambling enclave confirmed its first case of the virus on Wednesday.

Dr. Lei Chin-ion, the director of the Macao Health Bureau, said Wednesday a 52-year-old woman from Wuhan was confirmed as being infected with the virus after she went to hospital in Macao on January 21.

She had arrived in Macao from Wuhan on January 19 and had traveled by train and bus, Lei said at a news conference today. She claims she had no contact with anyone with a confirmed Wuhan coronavirus back home, Lei said.

Macao joins neighboring Hong Kong in calling off New Year festivities, albeit for very different reasons. Earlier this month Hong Kong officials announced that the city’s traditional fireworks display in Victoria Harbor, held on the second day of the Lunar New Year holiday, would be canceled for security reasons due to the ongoing anti-government protests.

10:52 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Hong Kong has stopped selling high-speed rail tickets to Wuhan

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

The West Kowloon train station in Hong Kong on September 10, 2018.
The West Kowloon train station in Hong Kong on September 10, 2018. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) has halted the sale of high-speed railway tickets to and from Wuhan, said Dobie Yam, the public transportation company's public relations manager Thursday.

Yam said the decision was made after discussions with railway officials in mainland China.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is on partial lockdown from in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. 

Customers queue to purchase tickets on September 10, 2018.
Customers queue to purchase tickets on September 10, 2018. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

10:31 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

UK scientists estimate more than 4,000 cases of coronavirus in Wuhan city alone

From CNN Health’s Meera Senthilingam

Scientists at Imperial College London estimate that around 4,000 people are likely to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus in Wuhan city alone as of January 18.

Official numbers show 17 people have died and more than 500 people have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus within the Chinese mainland, but a team at Imperial believes these numbers are a gross underestimate. Mild symptoms and delayed onset mean many cases are likely to have been undetected.

The new estimates are more than double previous estimates the scientists released last week, which suggested 1,723 people were likely to have been infected by January 12. The revision takes into account new information available this week, such as reports of exported cases in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Wuhan is still the epicenter of the outbreak, explained Neil Ferguson, professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, highlighting that the majority of cases continue to be reported in this region. Estimates are likely to change as more information becomes available, such as a newly reported case in Macao.

10:33 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Face masks are now mandatory in Wuhan

From CNN's Yong Xiong

Getty Images
Getty Images

People in public places in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new coronavirus emerged last month, are being required to wear face masks.

Wuhan's municipal government published a notice on Wednesday stating that all public places are to require customers to wear masks and owners are to prevent people from entering if they are not. 

It reads:

People who don't obey the requirements shall be dealt with by authorities in accordance with their respective duties and laws.

Public places include: 

  • Hotels, restaurants, guest houses, cafes, bars, tea houses
  • Public baths, barbers, beauty shops
  • Theaters, video halls, entertainment halls, dance halls, concert halls
  • Stadiums, swimming pools, parks
  • Exhibition halls, museums, art galleries, libraries
  • Shopping malls, bookstores
  • Waiting rooms, public transportation
  • Other public places where crowds gather

10:17 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Why experts recommended to lock down Wuhan

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung attends a press conference in Hong Kong on September 7, 2017.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung attends a press conference in Hong Kong on September 7, 2017. Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The decision to stop trains and planes to and from Wuhan has not come out of the blue.

A group of high-level experts visited Wuhan earlier this week — and recommended to the central government that they should stop people traveling to and from Wuhan.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung -- a leading microbiologist who was part of the group -- said that they recommended to a high-level ministerial meeting that nobody should come or go from Wuhan.

That meeting was broadcast to provincial leaders.

“The mainland government policy now is that nobody should leave Wuhan and nobody should come into Wuhan,” he told CNN Wednesday.

Here's what else he said:

“The Chinese new year is the most important festival for Chinese. And many of the mobile population, they’re coming from rural China to work in Wuhan, and now you ask them not to leave to see their relatives, that is difficult. But it has to be done.

If you allow people to go out of Wuhan, especially those who may have symptoms, then the exported case numbers will continue to surge, and that is not a good thing for the whole outbreak control.

I believe that this important and logical control measure of an epidemic center by stopping people from going in and going out is a time honored measure.

I think that the Chinese government has been very decisive in doing this which is for the good of the whole world."