Note: This is a developing story and will be updated periodically.
Thousands of cases of a new virus have been confirmed worldwide and the efforts being made to control its spread are ramping up.
The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which ranges from the common cold to more deadly illnesses like SARS and MERS. It’s believed to have emerged from a seafood market in a central Chinese city, Wuhan, but has since spread across China and trickled into other parts of the globe.
The respiratory illness has now infected more people in China that were sickened during the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS.
The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency on Jan. 30.
As new cases creep across borders and into new states and cities, both health officials and governments are trying to suppress the spread.
Cases around the world
The latest figures, as of Jan. 31, show nearly 10,000 around the world. China holds the vast majority of cases, surpassing 9,500 as of that date.
More than 200 people have died so far, most in the Hubei province of China, where the illnesses from the new virus were first detected back in December.
Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong each have more than ten cases. In North America, the United States has identified six cases — its most recent being the first human-to-human transmission for the country — while Canada has four confirmed cases as of Jan. 31.
The numbers of cases in each country are changing rapidly. The graph below was updated as of Jan. 31 in the afternoon. For more recent tallies, visit the John Hopkin’s University live map.
Some borders to China closed
Some of the precautions being taken to reduce the spread is happening at international border crossings.
Russia announced on Jan. 30 it would close its 4,185-kilometre land border with China completely. While it had already been closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, Russia’s prime minister extended the closure until March 1.
Russia’s decision follows a similar one made by Mongolia, which closed border crossings for auto vehicles and pedestrian traffic to China and Malaysia as of Jan. 27. There was no word on when it might reopen.
Kazakhstan suspended all passenger travel to and from neighbouring China on Jan. 29. The government order also included halting the issuing of visas to Chinese citizens.
Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan have not had any confirmed cases of the virus so far.
North Korea has not completely shut down its border but has begun intensifying its already isolated borders by taking “strong preventative measures” that include strengthened inspections at borders, denying all tourists and mobilizing more screening measures.
In Hong Kong, the high-speed rail service and ferry between the city and mainland China have been suspended, but some say it’s not enough. Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has called it “inappropriate and impractical” to close the entire border. Trade unions, including hospital and rail workers, have threatened to strike unless the government issues a full closure.
Vietnam announced that it will stop issuing visas for Chinese tourists after new cases were detected. Its government also cross-border trade between the two countries is currently not being encouraged.
Airlines cancel flights
Many international airlines have responded to the growing outbreak by suspending or scaling back flights to mainland China’s major cities.
Some of the airlines, however, are continuing service to Hong Kong.
Airlines with suspended service to China:
- Air Canada
- Air France
- British Airways
- Lufthansa (including subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss)
- Air India
- Seoul Air
- Lion Air
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines (starting Feb. 6)
- Nordic airline SAS
- El Al Israel Airlines
- Kenya Airways
- All Russian airlines (except Aeroflot)
Airlines with reduced service or select cancelled flights to China:
- Virgin Atlantic
- Delta Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Jetstar Asia
- Air Tanzania
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
- Air New Zealand
- Etihad Airways
- Singapore Airlines
Countries evacuating citizens
A number of countries stepped up efforts by sending planes to evacuate citizens from China.
The European Union brought 350 Europeans from the affected area to Portugal.
The U.S. has already evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan and is working on getting approval for additional flights for more of its citizens. All of those evacuated will have to be tested and monitored at a Southern California military base for 72 hours before they can be cleared.
There are 156 Canadian citizens who have asked for help to leave China as a result of the outbreak. Canada’s top foreign affairs official says a committee is still working on getting approval from the Chinese government to send a plane to collect them. There are about 250 Canadians in China who are registered with Global Affairs Canada.
Japan evacuated more than 210 evacuees to Tokyo on two flights this week, including a government-charted one. There were some reports that a handful of people aboard the flight showed signs of illness, including cough and fever.
Several other countries are working to get their citizens out, including Britain, New Zealand, Australia, India, Singapore, and Taiwan.
A plane carrying 83 British and 27 European Union nationals from Wuhan landed in Britain on Friday. It was due to then fly on to Spain. Those who returned to England will be quarantined for 14 days.
— With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and Reuters