Cases of new viral pneumonia surpass 200
China reported a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus yesterday, including the first cases in the capital. The outbreak coincides with the country’s busiest travel period, as millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays.
Health authorities in the central city of Wuhan, where the viral pneumonia appears to have originated, said an additional 136 cases have been confirmed in the city, which now has a total of 198 infected patients. As of the weekend, a third patient had died, bringing the death toll to three.
Two individuals in Beijing and one in the southern city of Shenzhen have also been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, health commissions in the respective cities said yesterday. The three people had visited Wuhan.
The outbreak has put other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year. Authorities in Thailand and Japan have already identified at least three cases, all involving recent travel from China.
South Korea reported its first case Monday, when a 35-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested positive for the new coronavirus one day after arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport. The woman has been isolated at a state-run hospital in Incheon city, just west of Seoul, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three United States airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China.
Videos posted online show people in protective suits checking one by one the temperatures of plane passengers arriving in Macao from Wuhan. A man surnamed Yang, who works for the Macao Health Bureau, confirmed over the phone that such checks are indeed taking place in the southern Chinese region.
Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus had connections to a seafood market in Wuhan, which was closed as an investigation was under way.
As hundreds of people who came into close contact with diagnosed patients were not infected themselves, the municipal health commission maintains that the virus is not easily transmitted between humans, though it has not ruled out limited human-to-human transmission.
China’s National Health Commission said experts have judged the current outbreak to be “preventable and controllable.”
“However, the source of the new type of coronavirus has not been found, we do not fully understand how the virus is transmitted, and changes in the virus still need to be closely monitored,” the commission said in a statement Sunday.