President Xi Jinping on January 25 said at a Communist Party leadership meeting that China was “faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus,” which has killed at least 56 people infected another 1,975 in the country.
However, Xi sought to reassure citizens, saying that the country will “definitely be able to win the battle” amid reports that a mounting number of cities had undertaken virtual lockdowns with t inbound and outbound transport being shut down.
The crisis has muted celebrations related to the Lunar New Year — normally China’s biggest holiday.
China Association of Travel Services has told travel agencies to halt all group tours, as millions of people traveling during the holiday have helped fueled the spread of the outbreak — both inside the country and elsewhere.
State-run China Global Television Network said that a 62-year-old doctor who had been treating patients in the city of Wuhan — considered the epicenter of the outbreak — had died from the virus.
The U.S. State Department said late on January 25 that it was chartering a flight for early next week to evacuate staff from its consulate in Wuhan. It also said it would transport other U.S. citizens who are at the greatest risk, but it warned that it would have “limited capacity” for private individuals.
So far, all of the deaths have been in China. But a growing number of other countries are reporting cases, mainly of people returning from China — especially from Wuhan.
Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases on January 25 — four each —and Japan reported its third case.
United States has reported two cases, while Canada on January 25 announced it had detected its first patient, in Toronto — a man in his 50s.
France confirmed three cases – the first in Europe — on January 24.
Cases have also been reported in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, as well as the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.
Hong Kong said Disneyland and Ocean Park would be closed from January 26 to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Most of the deaths have been among patients aged 50 or over, officials said.
The virus is part of a large family of coronaviruses. Some cases are mild, with others causing cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever. In more severe cases, there is shortness of breath. It can develop into pneumonia, which can be fatal.