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March 31, 2020
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Medical team members bound for Wuhan say farewell to family in Nanjing

A new coronavirus that has spread to almost 2,000 people is infectious in its incubation period, making it harder to contain, Chinese officials say.Some 56 people have died from the previously unknown virus. National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei told reporters the ability of the virus to spread appeared to be strengthening.Several Chinese cities have imposed significant travel restrictions.Wuhan in Hubei, the source of the outbreak, is in effective lockdown.The infections were at a “crucial stage of containment”, Ma Xiaowei said.Officials have pledged to intensify their efforts to contain the virus, and announced that the sale of all wildlife in China would be banned from Sunday.But while the virus was initially thought to have originated in animals, it has spread rapidly since jumping to human hosts. The incubation period – during which a person has the disease, but no symptoms yet – ranges from between one and 14 days, officials believe. Without symptoms, a person may not know they have the infection, but still be able to spread it.

Roadblocks and checks on the Hubei borderBy Stephen McDonnell, China correspondentOn the roads approaching Nanyang, health screening is in place for all cars. Anyone who’s sick can’t enter here. Vehicles with number plates from other provinces are monitored more strictly.Inside this city, hotels won’t accept travellers arriving from Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak started. Transport restrictions are now spreading to many parts of the entire central china region.Some towns and villages are denying entry to anybody but local residents.Right across the country officials are turning to ever more drastic measures to slow the spread of this potentially deadly virus.

Most of those who died in the initial outbreak were older people with pre-existing conditions. But Minister Ma also said that since it was a new virus, there could be changes in the coming days and weeks, and the danger it poses to different age groups could also change.He added that the risks posed by possible mutations remains unclear.What is the virus, and how is it changing?The virus itself is a new, or “novel” coronavirus – a family that normally affects animals, but there are a handful of known variants that infect humans. Among them is one of the viruses that causes the common cold, but another, Sars, led to a major outbreak in 2003.Occasionally, viruses can mutate and become more dangerous, resulting in a new strain.But Chinese officials said they have not yet seen evidence of a clear mutation yet, and are still assessing the possible changes.This new virus causes severe acute respiratory infection.Symptoms seem to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, lead to shortness of breath and some patients needing hospital treatment.
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Media captionThe WHO’s regional director gives some measured advice on the outbreakThere is no specific cure or vaccine. At the end of Saturday in China, there were 1975 cases and a further 2,684 suspected cases, China’s National Health Commission said.On Saturday, President Xi Jinping warned that the country was facing a “grave situation” as the spread of the virus accelerates.How has it spread?Sunday is the second day of year of the rat – and the rapid spread of the disease coincides with the Lunar New Year festival, one of the busiest travel periods in the Chinese calendar.From Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province, the disease spread to neighbouring cities and provinces in smaller numbers. By Saturday, cases were reported across China.But the disease also spread by air travel, and several countries are dealing with handful of cases.

A small number of cases have been reported in neighbouring Asian nations, but also further afield.Cases have been confirmed in Japan, Taiwan, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, the United States, and France.Other countries have carried out tests on suspected cases – for example, the UK tested 14 people, but all results came back negative.

The United Statess announced that staff at its consulate in Wuhan would be evacuated on a special flight on Tuesday. Other private American citizens deemed most at risk will also be able to board the flight.Lunar New Year celebrations for the year of the rat, which began on Saturday, have been cancelled in many Chinese cities. Learn more about the new virus

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