China issues urgent appeal for masks, suits and goggles

China government has been at pains to emphasise that it has the tools to control the spread of this coronavirus outbreak, but this morning did concede it needs help – in the form of protective medical equipment.

The disease appears to spreading more efficiently than its cousins Sars or Mers. That’s probably down to the fact that the world is much more dense and interconnected than in 2003, when Sars emerged, and because this coronavirus is more easily transmitted. “It’s more like the flu, which can whip around the world in no time,” says Mackay.

It appears that China will not be able to contain its spread within the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the death toll will spike, he says. “One big hole in our understanding is whether the disease is more dangerous than Sars,” he says. “That part is hard to answer because we’re missing a big important number, which is how many people are confirmed cases but haven’t gone to the hospital and are being quarantined at home, and how many have recovered.”

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“So I’m wondering why we’re not seeing kids among the cases,” Mackay says. He speculates it might be because we’re focusing on the most severely infected people, who are presenting to hospital, and missing the fact that many people, including children, might have the coronavirus but are only pr Viruses are “relentless replicating adaptive machines” that are constantly evolving, and this coronavirus will be no exception, Mackay says. Virologists need to see a larger selection of genome sequences of the virus than are currently available “to see more of what’s happening with the virus as it’s passing through thousands, possibly tens of thousands of hosts”.

Here are the major developments in the ongoing coronavirus now:

  • There are now 17,459 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The death toll is 362 people, while 489 have recovered.
  • The death toll is now higher than that from the Sars epidemic, which was 349 people.
  • More and more countries are temporarily banning people coming from mainland China from entering. Among them is New Zealand, whose prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, this morning cited “the range of unknowns in the way the virus is being transmitted” to justify her country’s decision.
  • We’ve registered the first fatality from the disease outside China. A 44-year old Chinese citizen has died in the Philippines after travelling there from Wuhan, where he was from. The race is now on to identify everyone he came into contact with, including passengers in the aircraft he flew in, and staff in the hotels where he stayed. He was travelling with a 38-year-old woman who was confirmed to have had the virus but was no longer showing symptoms.
  • Outside China, Hong Kong and Macau, the highest number of confirmed cases are in Japan (20 people), Thailand (19), Singapore (18), South Korea (15), Australia (12) and the US, which confirmed its 11th case overnight.
  • The outbreak has battered Chinese stock markets, which have plunged at least 7% after reopening for the first time since they closed for the lunar new year on 23 January. Trading in several commodities was suspended after losses quickly exceeded their daily limits.
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