Coronavirus Epidemic Keeps Growing, but Spread in China Slows

Coronavirus Epidemic Keeps Growing, but Spread in China Slows

Read live updates on the coronavirus outbreak here.

HONG KONG — Chinese officials hailed recent figures as evidence that the spread of the coronavirus epidemic has slowed, and World Health Organization officials said on Tuesday that China’s strict limits on its people’s movements have helped.

But the outbreak and its death toll continue to grow. The picture outside China has grown steadily more alarming. And experts caution against excessive optimism about the crisis peaking.

“It could be unwise for anybody in China, or outside China, to be complacent that this is coming under control at this point in time,” said Prof. Malik Peiris, chief of virology at the University of Hong Kong.

Since Chinese officials first acknowledged the virus in December, it has been hard to judge with precision the severity and scale of the outbreak.

Government officials, as well as public health experts around the world, said the numbers suggested that China’s aggressive measures to contain the epidemic were working. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, told Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain in a phone call on Tuesday that China was making “visible progress” in containing the epidemic, according to Chinese state media.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

More than half the country’s population is under some limitations on its movements, and 150 million of its people face restrictions on leaving their homes, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

“Right now, the strategic and tactical approach in China is the correct one,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the W.H.O.’s chief of emergency response, said on Tuesday. “You can argue whether these measures are excessive or restrictive on people, but there is an awful lot at stake here in terms of public health — not only the public health of China but of all people in the world.”

China’s lockdown has slowed the spread of the virus from its epicenter, the city of Wuhan, to the rest of China by two to three days, and from China to the rest of the world by two to three weeks, W.H.O. officials said.

The organization’s endorsement of China’s methods was an apparent reversal from less than three weeks earlier, when it had advised against restrictions on travel and trade. Some health experts have condemned the restrictions, saying that they were preventing vital resources from getting where they were needed, and could instill panic.

Prof. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory disease expert in China, said on Monday that he expected the epidemic to peak in the country’s southern regions by mid- to late February, and the rest of the country to follow soon after.

Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told more than 100 Americans who have been on the Diamond Princess they cannot return home for at least two more weeks, after it became clear that efforts to control the virus aboard the ship had been ineffective. The passengers include some who have tested positive for the virus and are hospitalized, and others still aboard the ship who have not shown signs of illness.

Japanese officials said they expected 500 people to be let off the ship on Wednesday. But they did not make it clear how they had concluded it was safe to release people, or how they had decided which passengers would leave, or who those people would be.

Cambodia has allowed more than a thousand passengers from another cruise ship, the Westerdam, to disembark without testing most of them. Hundreds of them flew out of the country, before one of them took ill and tested positive for the virus, raising fears of undetected cases and a further global spread.

The country’s authoritarian leader, Hun Sen, has continued to express complacency about the outbreak, even encouraging passengers from the Westerdam to go sightseeing in Cambodia.

“Cruise ships are the weak link in the containment,” said Prof. Raina MacIntyre, an expert in biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Citing the potential for future cruise ships to harbor the virus, she said, “we could lose control of the epidemic if we don’t get a tight handle on the cruise ship situation.”

There are other signs the outbreak’s global toll has not crested. The first coronavirus-related death outside of Asia was announced on Saturday, when a Chinese man died in France. Taiwan announced its first virus-related death on Sunday, marking the fifth fatality outside mainland China.

The economic cost of the outbreak, which has paralyzed China, the world’s second-largest economy, also continues to grow.

Reporting and research were contributed by Austin Ramzy, Isabella Kwai and Alexandra Stevenson in Hong Kong, Hannah Beech in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Choe Sang-Hun in Seoul, South Korea, Raymond Zhong and Lin Qiqing in Shanghai, Wang Yiwei in Beijing, Roni Caryn Rabin in New York, Richard C. Paddock in Jakarta, Indonesia, Motoko Rich in Tokyo and Daisuke Wakabayashi in San Francisco.

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My name is Nadia Campari and I am a news and fashion blogger. My hobby is travelling and I want to share my excpiriences with you.