January 23 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Steve George, James Griffiths and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 8:46 a.m. ET, January 24, 2020
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11:20 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Macao just canceled its Lunar New Year celebrations

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Commuters wear face masks as they travel in a bus in Macau on Wednesday.
Commuters wear face masks as they travel in a bus in Macau on Wednesday. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Macao’s Government Tourism Office has announced all Lunar New Year festivities are being canceled “due to the Wuhan coronavirus."

The semi-autonomous Chinese city and gambling enclave confirmed its first case of the virus on Wednesday.

Dr. Lei Chin-ion, the director of the Macao Health Bureau, said Wednesday a 52-year-old woman from Wuhan was confirmed as being infected with the virus after she went to hospital in Macao on January 21.

She had arrived in Macao from Wuhan on January 19 and had traveled by train and bus, Lei said at a news conference today. She claims she had no contact with anyone with a confirmed Wuhan coronavirus back home, Lei said.

Macao joins neighboring Hong Kong in calling off New Year festivities, albeit for very different reasons. Earlier this month Hong Kong officials announced that the city’s traditional fireworks display in Victoria Harbor, held on the second day of the Lunar New Year holiday, would be canceled for security reasons due to the ongoing anti-government protests.

10:52 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Hong Kong has stopped selling high-speed rail tickets to Wuhan

From journalist Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

The West Kowloon train station in Hong Kong on September 10, 2018.
The West Kowloon train station in Hong Kong on September 10, 2018. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) has halted the sale of high-speed railway tickets to and from Wuhan, said Dobie Yam, the public transportation company's public relations manager Thursday.

Yam said the decision was made after discussions with railway officials in mainland China.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is on partial lockdown from in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. 

Customers queue to purchase tickets on September 10, 2018.
Customers queue to purchase tickets on September 10, 2018. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

10:31 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

UK scientists estimate more than 4,000 cases of coronavirus in Wuhan city alone

From CNN Health’s Meera Senthilingam

Scientists at Imperial College London estimate that around 4,000 people are likely to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus in Wuhan city alone as of January 18.

Official numbers show 17 people have died and more than 500 people have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus within the Chinese mainland, but a team at Imperial believes these numbers are a gross underestimate. Mild symptoms and delayed onset mean many cases are likely to have been undetected.

The new estimates are more than double previous estimates the scientists released last week, which suggested 1,723 people were likely to have been infected by January 12. The revision takes into account new information available this week, such as reports of exported cases in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Wuhan is still the epicenter of the outbreak, explained Neil Ferguson, professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, highlighting that the majority of cases continue to be reported in this region. Estimates are likely to change as more information becomes available, such as a newly reported case in Macao.

10:33 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Face masks are now mandatory in Wuhan

From CNN's Yong Xiong

Getty Images
Getty Images

People in public places in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new coronavirus emerged last month, are being required to wear face masks.

Wuhan's municipal government published a notice on Wednesday stating that all public places are to require customers to wear masks and owners are to prevent people from entering if they are not. 

It reads:

People who don't obey the requirements shall be dealt with by authorities in accordance with their respective duties and laws.

Public places include: 

  • Hotels, restaurants, guest houses, cafes, bars, tea houses
  • Public baths, barbers, beauty shops
  • Theaters, video halls, entertainment halls, dance halls, concert halls
  • Stadiums, swimming pools, parks
  • Exhibition halls, museums, art galleries, libraries
  • Shopping malls, bookstores
  • Waiting rooms, public transportation
  • Other public places where crowds gather

10:17 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Why experts recommended to lock down Wuhan

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung attends a press conference in Hong Kong on September 7, 2017.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung attends a press conference in Hong Kong on September 7, 2017. Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The decision to stop trains and planes to and from Wuhan has not come out of the blue.

A group of high-level experts visited Wuhan earlier this week — and recommended to the central government that they should stop people traveling to and from Wuhan.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung -- a leading microbiologist who was part of the group -- said that they recommended to a high-level ministerial meeting that nobody should come or go from Wuhan.

That meeting was broadcast to provincial leaders.

“The mainland government policy now is that nobody should leave Wuhan and nobody should come into Wuhan,” he told CNN Wednesday.

Here's what else he said:

“The Chinese new year is the most important festival for Chinese. And many of the mobile population, they’re coming from rural China to work in Wuhan, and now you ask them not to leave to see their relatives, that is difficult. But it has to be done.

If you allow people to go out of Wuhan, especially those who may have symptoms, then the exported case numbers will continue to surge, and that is not a good thing for the whole outbreak control.

I believe that this important and logical control measure of an epidemic center by stopping people from going in and going out is a time honored measure.

I think that the Chinese government has been very decisive in doing this which is for the good of the whole world."
10:06 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

Airport screenings for the Wuhan coronavirus increase around the world

From CNN's Karla Cripps

A monitor displays an image of a thermal scanner as a passenger passes through a quarantine station at Narita Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
A monitor displays an image of a thermal scanner as a passenger passes through a quarantine station at Narita Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airports around the world are increasing health screenings and implementing new quarantine procedures as officials race to slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Officials announced public transportation in Wuhan would be suspended until further notice starting the morning of Thursday, January 23.

The suspension includes local buses, ferries, long-distance buses and subways. All airport and railway stations in Wuhan will be "temporarily closed" for departing passengers with no set re-opening dates.

Here's what some other countries are doing:

United States: Since confirmation of the first case of the new coronavirus on January 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased screening and quarantine measures at the country's major airports.

Thailand: Officials at international airports in the Thai cities of Bangkok, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Phuket are reportedly screening arrivals not just from Wuhan but also Beijing and Shenzhen, which have also recorded cases of the coronavirus.

Australia: The Australian Department of Health is currently working to implement additional measures to manage the risk of the coronavirus, including additional border measures -- particularly in relation to the three weekly direct flights from Wuhan to Sydney

Singapore: From January 22, temperature screening at Changi Airport will be expanded to include all inbound travelers on flights arriving from China, the Ministry of Health announced.

Read more here

9:54 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

An official at the State Department said the US is concerned about China's transparency in dealing with the crisis

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler in Washington and Pierre Meilhan in Atlanta

A senior State Department official said Wednesday the United States is concerned about transparency inside the Chinese government on the Wuhan Coronavirus. 

“I do believe that the concern you see both inside China and internationally is a reflection of what we’ve seen in the past. 2003 was SARS, and a number of issues, where the government has been slow to respond out of fear of embarrassment or making things look worse than they are. And that reluctance to respond in a rapid manner doesn’t give the global community a secure feeling for this being managed inside China,” the official said.

The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) looms large over China's response to the Wuhan coronavirus. Hundreds of people died of SARS, and Chinese authorities were widely criticized for initially downplaying the severity of the disease and censoring news about its spread, potentially causing many more people to become infected. 

The State Department official said that the US was in contact with “the folks in Wuhan and the Ambassador in Beijing” on this. They said there is discussion about raising the travel advisory in response to the Wuhan Coronavirus, but nothing had been formally announced yet.

Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said Chinese authorities conducted genetic sequencing of the virus days after the first reported cases and then shared the sequence with the global health community.

On its verified Twitter account, the Chinese Embassy in the United States says, “China has shared info with WHO and other countries and regions on 15 occasions."

9:38 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

A scramble to get out of Wuhan before lockdown

From CNN's David Culver, Yong Xiong and Natalie Thomas in Hubei

With the news that public transport -- including planes and trains -- leaving Wuhan would be "temporarily closed" from Thursday morning, the CNN team on the ground had to scramble to get out of the city.

Yong Xiong/CNN
Yong Xiong/CNN

2:50 a.m. China time Colleagues in Beijing and Atlanta were the first to learn of the news and decided to pull the team out rather than risk them being stuck in Wuhan for an indefinite period.

Doing so wouldn't prove straightforward, however. There were only three flights to Beijing before 10 a.m., when the shutdown would come into effect, and all were almost full and carried with them the major uncertainty over what would happen if there were delays -- would departures be called off if they dragged on beyond cut-off time?

Roads were not mentioned in the announcement about the closures, but there was already reports on social media of police blocking highways, so Atlanta and Beijing decided the team should get a train out.

Yong Xiong/CNN
Yong Xiong/CNN

3:00 a.m. Woken early by colleagues in Beijing, the team rushed to the closest train station, where they found a flurry of other passengers with the same idea. Families unloading their cars and hurrying to get into lines that already stretched outside the doors; it seems they too got the message and wanted to get out.

4:00 a.m. After almost an hour queuing for tickets, the team was able to secure seats on a 7 a.m. high-speed train headed back to Beijing -- but from another station across town, one closer to the city center, within a few blocks of the Huanan Seafood Market, the suspected epicenter of the viral outbreak.

Walking out of the first train station, the team was approached by one woman offering to drive people to a city about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Wuhan. She wanted $300 for the journey.

Yong Xiong/CNN
Yong Xiong/CNN

5:00 a.m. Driving through Wuhan en route to Hankou railway station, the team saw groups of people standing at the sides of the road, luggage at their sides, face masks on. It was not immediately clear what they were waiting for, but they were seemingly prepared for a long journey.

Arriving at Wuhan's central station, the team watched as dozens of passengers busily filed through the security screening. Officials were also using thermal detectors to scan for potential fevers. Just outside the main door, a man who looked to be in his late 60s, sat with a box of unopened face masks. He was selling them for about $1.75 each. 

6:00 a.m. Inside Hankou station, the crowds were shoulder to shoulder. It was difficult to distinguish between planned holiday travelers -- Lunar New Year being two days away -- and fellow last-minute departures. The only people who stood out were the few who had left their faces uncovered. Others took the opposite approach: one woman had covered her face, hands, head and body with a plastic poncho. Some wore hair nets, while others doubled up on face masks.

Yong Xiong/CNN
Yong Xiong/CNN

6.55 a.m. As the final boarding calls were made, passengers rushed from the platform onto the train. One young couple walked up to the door with their son and an elderly man. They told CNN they were sending the child with his grandfather to stay with family out of town. But they didn't want to unnecessarily risk exposing out of town relatives to the illness so were staying back in Wuhan themselves.

7:00 a.m. As the train departed Wuhan, staff were all wearing masks, only 36 hours after they were reportedly told by management not to, so as to avoid a panic. It was still dark as the train left the city, but as it forged ahead the sun rose amid thick smog and morning mist.

9:26 p.m. ET, January 22, 2020

It's Thursday morning in Wuhan. Here's what happened overnight

At least 17 people are dead in China and more than 500 infected as the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread throughout Asia and across the world.

As China continues to try and contain the Wuhan coronavirus ahead of the main Lunar New Year travel rush, officials took the largely unprecedented step of ordering a partial lockdown of the city of 11 million people.

From 10 a.m. local time (9 p.m. ET), all public transport, including planes and trains, has been "temporarily suspended."

What exactly this means, and how long the "temporary" suspension will continue is currently unclear -- the majority of travel during Lunar New Year takes place on roads by private vehicle.

Even with the roads remaining open, the scale of the challenge facing authorities is immense. For the purpose of comparison, imagine closing down all transport links for a city more than three times the size of Chicago, two days before Christmas.

Extra screening protocols have also been put in place in airports outside of China, including in the US, where the first case of the virus was confirmed Wednesday.

Following a meeting in Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) officials decided not to declare a public health emergency over the Wuhan virus. They will meet again Thursday to discuss whether further action is needed.