Saheli Roy Choudhury
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images
Chinese officials have said there are 2,862 confirmed cases, with the death toll rising to 81.
On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the epicenter of the outbreak — the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, where the deadly pneumonia-like virus was first identified last month. Li was there to inspect prevention and control efforts, the government said.
The new strain comes from a large family of viruses known as coronaviruses, according to the World Health Organization. They are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
It has since spread beyond Wuhan to other major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Macao, and Hong Kong.
In a press briefing, the National Health Commission said the incubation period for the virus is about 10 days and that it is contagious even during this stage, putting additional pressure on prevention control. That is said to be a major difference compared to SARS, where victims became contagious after they showed symptoms.
More potential cases in Wuhan
The World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is traveling to Beijing to meet with government and health officials. According to the organization, more data needs to be collected before the virus, which can spread through human-to-human contact, is declared a global health emergency.
More than 1,600 medical staff are said to be sent to the Hubei province to assist in containing the virus. The central government previously said it allocated 1 billion yuan ($145 million) to support the province — Wuhan is building a 1,000-bed hospital to treat the infected and plans to have the facility operational by the end of the week.
Authorities also temporarily banned the trade of wild animals in China on Sunday, responding to the outbreak as some consider the virus to have originated in a type of wild animal sold and consumed as food in Wuhan, the Associated Press reported.
China has also extended the Lunar New Year holiday to Feb. 2 in a bid to reduce people from gathering in public spaces, which could increase the risk of infection. Beijing said it will delay school reopenings in the city.
Singapore’s health ministry said the number of confirmed cases in the city-state rose to four while South Korea reported its third patient infected with the virus. Thailand also reported three new cases, according to the Associated Press.
Australia has confirmed four people have been infected — one in the state of Victoria and three in New South Wales. On Monday, health officials reported a fifth case that involved a 21-year-old woman who was on the last flight out of Wuhan to Sydney before China restricted travel out of the city, Reuters reported.
French authorities on Friday confirmed the first instances of the virus in Europe, with three cases in the country — two patients in Paris and one in Bordeaux, according to local media.
Nepal is said to have confirmed its first case — a Nepali student studying in China, according to Xinhua.
Cases have also been reported in Taiwan, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
U.S., France, and Japan were said to be arranging to evacuate their consulate staff from China, the Associated Press reported.
On Saturday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared a virus emergency in the city of 7.3 million, extending school cancellations until Feb. 17.