ust ahead of the height of the Spring Festival travel season in China, reports of pneumonia caused by a mysterious new strain of coronavirus are beginning to spread across the country.
Thus far, all those infected with the virus spent time in Wuhan, a mega-city in central China that also serves as one of the country’s main transportation hubs. The outbreak began in December but concerns have now been heightened with Chinese authorities reporting a significant increase in the number of people affected.
Health officials in Wuhan announced on Monday they identified 136 new cases of the virus over the weekend, bringing the total number of those infected in the city all the way up to 199.
Of the new patients, 33 are reported to be in serious condition while three have been classified as critical with one of those patients dying. This brings the number of the dead from the virus up to three. The first, a 69-year-old man, died last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing have reported two cases of pneumonia patients with the virus while those in Shenzhen have reported one. All three of these individuals are said to have arrived from Wuhan.
Likewise, two cases have been reported in Thailand, one in Japan, and one in South Korea with all the infected travelers having originated from Wuhan.
Authorities have pinpointed Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market as the possible epicenter of the outbreak. The market has been shut down for disinfection.
Thus far, the virus has not been proved to transmit via human-to-human contact, though Chinese authorities have said that they can not rule out the possibility. For its part, the WHO has said that human-to-human transmission is likely considering other coronavirus outbreaks like SARS, which wreaked havoc in southern China in 2002/2003, killing at least 774.
The response to that catastrophic outbreak was hindered by an attempted government cover-up. Already, experts have accused China of grossly underestimating the number of people infected by this new virus, projecting that there may well be more than 1,700 infections in Wuhan.
China has insisted that the new virus is controllable. Infrared thermometers have been installed at airports, train stations, and bus stations across the city. Of course, this comes weeks after the virus first appeared.
passengers screened for coronavirus symptoms on a domestic flight out of Wuhan pic.twitter.com/ytUbVzpYRZ
— David Paulk 波大卫 (@davidpaulk) January 20, 2020