January 30 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Angela Dewan and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 1:53 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020
24 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:08 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

South Korea to send $5 million worth of humanitarian aid to China

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

The South Korean government is sending $5 million worth of emergency humanitarian aid to China, the South Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Thursday.

Due to the urgent need of medical supplies in Wuhan to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus, the government is sending two million face masks, one million medical masks, and 100,000 hazmat suits and goggles in a plane, which will repatriate South Korean citizens from Wuhan.

South Korea will also send $300,000 worth of supply items to Chongqing city, near Wuhan, and is working with the Chinese authorities to organize the flights.

2:55 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

Officials in Hong Kong are arguing about whether you can steam clean face masks amid a shortage

From CNN's James Griffiths

Hong Kong lawmaker Ann Chiang has clashed with her colleagues and a top medical official over whether you can clean and reuse face masks, as the semi-autonomous Chinese city faces shortages and long queues at the few shops still with masks in stock.

Speaking during a parliamentary session, Chiang, chair of the health services panel, asked Wong Ka-hing, controller of the government-run Center for Health Protection, "what if I can't buy any surgical masks?"

"The public do not have so many masks as you do," she told Wong, before asking if it "possible to sterilize them at home?"

"That doesn't work according to my understanding," Wong responded.

Chiang had earlier uploaded a video to Facebook showing how she steam cleans her own masks, and in a follow up post she defended the move as a possible last resort, pointing out that materials in the mask could withstand temperatures of over 140 degrees C, meaning 100C should not damage the masks itself.

According to public broadcaster RTHK, medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan said the idea was "horrible," and "will destroy the structure of that surgical mask, it's very simple."

"(Masks are) one use only and please, do that," he said.

Whether surgical masks can be safely reused has been examined in the past. A report published in 2006 from the US Institute of Medicine said it could not find any means of cleaning disposable masks, including more sophisticated respirators, "without increasing the likelihood of infection."

2:45 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

Bats, the source of so many viruses, could be the origin of Wuhan coronavirus, say experts

From CNN's Katie Hunt

The bat has long been seen as a biological super villain. 

"When you look at the genetic sequence of the virus, and you match it up with every known coronavirus, the closest relatives are from bats," said Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, an environmental health non-profit.

Professor Guizhen Wu of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study released by the Lancet medical journal on Wednesday that the data they had so far was consistent with the virus being initially hosted by bats.

Why the bat? The winged mammal has been the reservoir for several different deadly viruses like Marburg, Nipah and Hendra, which have caused disease in humans and outbreaks in Uganda, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Australia. Bats are thought to be the natural host of the Ebola virus, rabies, SARS and MERS, with the latter two both coronaviruses similar to the one that's now emerged in Wuhan.

Often, there's an intermediary involved as was the case with SARS in 2003 — the civet cat — and MERS, which emerged later in the 2000s and was carried by camels

Flying could be why: One theory posits that flight, which is shared by all bats but no other mammals, has allowed bats to evolve mechanisms that protect them from viruses. Flying elevates the bat's metabolism and body temperature -- similar to a fever in humans and other mammals -- and scientists say this, on an evolutionary scale, could boost a bat's immune system and make it more tolerant of viruses.

Too early to really tell: It's too early to say for sure whether the Wuhan coronavirus originated in bats and whether an intermediary played a role. The outbreak was initially traced to a seafood market that sold live animals in Wuhan and scientists are working hard to trace the source both in the lab and in the field.

Read the full story here.

2:38 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

Chinese health workers will receive a daily subsidy for fighting coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Chinese health workers fighting the Wuhan coronavirus will receive a subsidy of 300 yuan ($43) per day, according to China’s Ministry of Finance and National Health Commission.

Those eligible for the subsidy include front line medical staff who are in direct contact with suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases.

Staff involved with the diagnosis, treatment and nursing of coronavirus patients, or who are involved in the collection and testing of pathological samples will all also receive 300 yuan.

Other healthcare workers involved in fighting the outbreak will receive a subsidy of 200 yuan ($29) per day.

Thousands of medical workers are putting their health and life at risk as they treat patients and work to stop the spread of the virus that has killed at least 170 people.

There was a mixed response on Chinese social media to the announcement, with many saying the amount is too little.

"It’s not much to subsidize Wuhan health care workers 1,000 yuan ($144) per day," one user of China's microblogging site Weibo said.

Others noted that the money was ultimately coming from taxpayers.

Medical staff wearing protective clothing with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan.
Medical staff wearing protective clothing with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Dangerous, exhausting work

Exhausted medical workers have described an incredibly intense environment, where they must balance dealing with the overload of patients and suspected patients while also keeping themselves safe.

Health care workers in Wuhan have said hospitals are running low on supplies as they treat an increasing number of patients.  

One hospital staff member said health care workers have resorted to wearing diapers to work so as to avoid having to remove their hazmat suits, which they say are in short supply. A doctor on her Chinese social media Weibo page described similar accounts at another Wuhan hospital.

"My family members are definitely worried about me, but I still have to work," another doctor told CNN.

2:25 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

These countries are evacuating citizens from Wuhan because of the coronavirus

Countries are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province, as the number of cases overtake the 2003 SARS outbreak inside mainland China.

Flights have been chartered and various quarantine measures have been put in place.

Australia: There are more than 600 Australian citizens in Hubei, according to CNN affiliate Nine News, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there will be a focus on repatriating "the young, especially infants, and the elderly." Returning Australians will be quarantined on Christmas Island -- more than 1,000 miles away from Australia in the Indian Ocean.

European Union: Two planes will be sent to Wuhan to help evacuate EU citizens, Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said Tuesday. Around 250 French citizens will be transported in the first aircraft, while 100 people from other EU countries will take the second plane, which will leave later this week.

Germany: German evacuations are planned to start in the next few days, the country's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

France: A plane will be sent Thursday to repatriate French citizens, with a second flight is planned for those who may be carrying the virus. There are around 800 French citizens in Wuhan.

Italy: A flight is set to depart Italy on Thursday to repatriate its citizens from Wuhan.

Spain: Spain's government is working with China and the EU to repatriate its nationals from the Wuhan area. No flight has been planned yet.

India: The Indian government has begun the process of "preparing to evacuate" Indian nationals from Hubei, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday. No other details are known.

New Zealand: The New Zealand government has chartered an Air New Zealand aircraft to evacuate its nationals currently in Wuhan. A government press release says the aircraft will have capacity for 300 passengers.

Japan: Two flights carrying more than 400 Japanese citizens arrived back in the country from Wuhan on Wednesday and Thursday.

South Korea: Four charter flights were sent to Wuhan on Wednesday, where almost 700 South Korean citizens have applied to fly out. On Thursday the planned flights out of the city were delayed and officials are working to organize the flights as early as tonight.

Turkey: More than two dozen Turkish citizens in Wuhan will be evacuated in the next couple of days, the Turkish ambassador in China told Haberturk news channel. It is unclear whether the plane will land in the capital, Ankara, or Istanbul.

United Kingdom: Britain had planned to bring back 200 of its citizens in Wuhan on Thursday but had to delay the flight. It was understood the flight was delayed due to Chinese permissions that did not come through.

United States: A chartered plane carrying around 201 US citizens -- mostly diplomats and their families -- arrived in southern California on Wednesday. More Americans remain in Wuhan, hoping to be evacuated at a later date. The State Department said it was unable to accommodate everyone on the flight because of space limitations but is working to identify alternative routes.

Read more on this here.

2:02 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

When will the virus peak?

From CNN's James Griffiths

Outside of Hubei province -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- infections are predicted to continue growing for weeks, if not months.

More cases expected: Researchers at Imperial College London have estimated that at least 4,000 people were infected in Wuhan by January 18, almost a week before the lockdown of the city began. Their model suggests a low nationwide figure of 20,000 infections in China by the end of the month, potentially as high as 100,000. 

Possible peak in 10 days: Speaking to state media Tuesday, Zhong Nanshan, one of China's leading respiratory experts and a hero of the 2003 fight against SARS, said he expected the peak to come in up to 10 days.

"It is very difficult to definitely estimate when the outbreak reaches its peak. But I think in one week or about 10 days, it will reach the climax and then there will be no large-scale increases," Zhong said.

Others say virus could still spread: Other experts have warned that while the outbreak in Hubei may peak in the coming weeks, other Chinese megacities may see self-sustaining epidemics that continue to spread the pathogen around the country and worldwide.

"We modeled epidemic curves out to August 2020 for all the major city clusters: Chongqing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Beijing. Chongqing is predicted to have the largest epidemic due to large population and most intense traffic volume coupled to Wuhan," Gabriel Leung, a leading Hong Kong researcher and public health expert, said earlier this week.

Spring and summer: He said outbreaks in China's largest cities could peak in April or May and gradually slow in June and July.

Read the full story here.

1:51 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

Millions are living in isolation in Hubei province

From CNN's James Griffiths and Paul Murphy

While many foreign nationals are being evacuated by their countries from Wuhan and the wider Hubei province, tens of millions of Chinese people must stay put and endure life under lockdown.

In Wuhan itself, 11 million people are marking a week on lockdown with no sign of immediate relief. Nor is there firm evidence that their sacrifice has been worth it, with the virus spreading around the country and scientists warning that other major cities could soon become self-sustaining epidemics.

Some 60 million people across Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital, are on some level of lockdown, and many travelers from the region have been ordered to self-quarantine, holed up in their apartments or hotel rooms for days on end. 

While "Come on Wuhan!" has been a popular refrain online, and the country has largely pulled together to tackle the outbreak, there have also been reports of discrimination against Hubei residents, with them denied accommodation or entry to restaurants in other parts of the country. 

For those living in the smaller towns or satellite cities in Hubei, life with travel restrictions and not knowing whether supplies of food or medicines will last, is taking its toll.

CNN spoke with an individual in Jingmen, another city in Hubei province about 130 miles east of Wuhan. Its population of roughly 2.94 million residents are also under travel restrictions.

View from a street in Jingmen, Hubei Province.
View from a street in Jingmen, Hubei Province. Obtained by CNN

CNN has agreed to not name the individual because of security concerns and potential government reprisals for speaking to Western media.

Although they live in another province in China, they are now stuck -- essentially quarantined -- at a family’s apartment in the city.

They say pedestrians have all but cleared out; streets that used to be very busy and noisy are nearly silent. Officials have advised everyone there to stay indoors. They've ventured out to a local store nearby where there was a mask shortage of the kind that has plagued other parts of China.

They spend most of their time watching television, but playing the piano and doing housework also keeps them busy. The family has kept up their exercises.

They told CNN things are calm, but there is a lot of concern because they have no idea when the travel restrictions will be lifted.

1:33 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

Residents shout "Go, Wuhan!" from apartment buildings

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

Jokes about how Wuhan residents can now make a great contribution to China by simply doing nothing and lying on the couch are doing the rounds on Chinese social media. 

There is also a viral video of an elderly woman in Wuhan dumping bags of vegetables into her shopping cart while everyone around her stopped to listen to Premier Li Keqiang giving a short speech at a local supermarket. The meme goes that no one can stop Wuhan grannies from getting their groceries, not even the Chinese premier.

Li visited Wuhan on Monday to inspect the situation on the ground and placate the public amid growing criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.

The same evening, residents could be heard shouting "Go, Wuhan!" and singing China's national anthem from their high-rise buildings, according to videos circulating online.

The scene echoes similar evening routines in Hong Kong last year during the city's ongoing pro-democracy protests, which began in June. Protesters shouted "Go, Hong Kong!" and sang the protest movement's anthem from their apartment windows.

Not all Wuhan residents support the practice, however. Counter calls online warned it was too dangerous to shout from apartment windows, as droplets of bodily fluids carrying the coronavirus could be passed from one floor to another as people shouted over balconies.

Read the full story here.

1:19 a.m. ET, January 30, 2020

The Wuhan coronavirus is Chinese President Xi Jinping's ultimate test. Will he pass?

Analysis from CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization. Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images

Unlike in the United States and elsewhere, it's unusual for a Chinese leader to personally proclaim his involvement in countrywide matters. Not only is it considered self-evident, but he also doesn't need to -- state-run media produces fawning coverage of his every move on a daily basis.

But on Tuesday, that's precisely what Chinese President Xi Jinping did, telling the visiting head of the World Health Organization he had "always been personally in command" and always "personally organizing deployments" in China's effort to contain the deadly Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Since the coronavirus epidemic turned into a national crisis on January 20, when a government adviser confirmed the possibility on live television of human-to-human transmission, Xi has maintained something of a low profile, rarely appearing in newscasts connected to the outbreak.

Many were caught off guard the next day when Premier Li Keqiang, officially the No. 2 leader but seen as sidelined under Xi by many analysts, was made the head of a super commission in charge of combating the epidemic.

Although all state media reports stressed that Li was "entrusted by Xi" to visit Wuhan, the absence of China's most powerful leader in decades from the epicenter has generated a swirl of reactions -- often in coded words -- on the country's tightly monitored and censored social media platforms.

A political Waterloo?

"Having concentrated so much power in his hands, Xi's been heading countless commissions and groups -- except this one," noted Pin Ho, the founder of Mirror Group, an influential Chinese-language media company based in New York that publishes books and websites on Chinese politics.
"And this one is dealing with the most important national, or even global, issue of the day -- about life and death," he added. "This mistake may become his political Waterloo."

Some now worry the situation may push Xi to centralize power even more, as he faces perhaps his biggest political challenge to date.

Unlike the Hong Kong protest movement or the trade war with the US, analysts say he can't easily blame hostile foreign forces for a homegrown epidemic -- ostensibly exacerbated by initial mishandling in Wuhan.

"Strongmen often rely on the halo of being national heroes, being brave and adventurous," said Ho. "If Xi takes the risk to go to Wuhan now, his political reputation would bounce back -- but of course there is the risk of infection due to the uncertainty of the virus."

Read the full story here.