Coronavirus is getting stronger and infections could rise, China warns
China has warned the ability of the deadly coronavirus to spread is getting stronger as the number infected globally rose to more than 2,000.
The authorities said little is known about the new virus and are unclear on the risks posed by it mutating.
National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the coronavirus can range from one to 14 days, and is infectious during this time.
This was not the case with the previous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, which also originated in China and killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002 and 2003.
Containment efforts, which to date have included transport and travel curbs and the cancellation of major events, are to be ramped up, said Mr Ma.
Medical supplies are reportedly being rushed to the city, including 14,000 protective suits, 110,000 pairs of gloves and masks and goggles.
So far 56 people in the country have died in the latest outbreak and the number of confirmed cases has reached 1,975.
A small number of cases have also been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Australia and Canada.
The virus originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei late last year and has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing.
The Chinese government has also reported cases in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
Canada declared that Toronto had identified its first coronavirus case on Saturday – a man in his 50s who recently returned from Wuhan.
France confirmed three cases on Friday, the first in Europe, and the US identified its second, a woman in Chicago who had returned from China.
The US State Department said it will evacuate staff at its Wuhan consulate to the US and will offer a limited number of seats to private citizens at greater risk of coronavirus on a flight to San Francisco on Tuesday.
The UK Foreign Office has advised against “all travel to Wuhan city”, adding: “If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so.”
The number of people tested for coronavirus in the UK has passed 30 – although there are still no confirmed cases.
Health officials are also continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan.
While most of the deaths have been older patients, a 36-year-old man in Hubei died on Thursday.
State-run China Global Television Network also confirmed that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus.
A report on state TV said resources and experts are being concentrated at designated hospitals for treatment of severe cases, with no treatment delayed due to cost, and supplies of materials to Hubei province and its capital Wuhan to be guaranteed.
China has announced further transport restrictions in a bid to stop the outbreak from spreading, with Hong Kong declaring a virus emergency and scrapping Lunar New Year celebrations that began on Saturday.
At the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan, where 11 million residents are already on lockdown, most vehicle use has been banned, including private cars, in downtown areas starting Sunday, state media reported.
The city will assign 6,000 taxis to neighbourhoods to help people get around if they need to, China Daily said.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency – the highest one – and close primary and secondary schools for two more weeks on top of next week’s Lunar New Year holiday.
Ms Lam added that direct flights and trains from Wuhan would be blocked.
Hong Kong’s popular amusement parks Disneyland and Ocean Park have closed to help prevent the spread of infection.
The Chinese military has sent 450 medical staff, some with experience in past outbreaks including SARS and Ebola, to Wuhan to help treat patients.
Two new dedicated hospitals are being built in the city to cope with rising numbers of cases.
Construction has already started on the first facility, with enough space for 1,000 patients, which is expected to be completed by 3 February.
The second, which is designed to have 1,300 beds, is due to be finished within three weeks.
The Ministry of Commerce is co-ordinating an effort to supply more than two million masks and other products from elsewhere in the country.