Fears of a global pandemic are rising as a new, deadly coronavirus spreads across China and beyond the country’s borders. There’s now a global effort underway to slow its spread as scientists work to understand and treat the contagious illness.
causes pneumonia-like symptoms. It’s related to the virus that caused the devastating SARS outbreak in 2003.
As of Monday, the total confirmed cases neared 3,000 with 81 deaths. The virus has been identified in multiple other countries, including the US, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, France and Australia.
The deaths have occurred mainly in the Hubei province in China where the virus first emerged. Many of China’s efforts to contain the virus have centered on this region, but much of the country is now impacted by closures, quarantines and postponements of events as officials, companies and organizations work to prevent a wider epidemic.
China quarantines millions
One of China’s first major efforts to slow the spread of the virus involved a quarantine on the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated. The quarantine included transportation restrictions and encompassed a population of 11 million people. That would be equivalent to the UK attempting to isolate London.
China also restricted travel in other cities near Wuhan, leaving around 50 million people on lockdown.
Hong Kong closures
Hong Kong’s government has decided to close cultural and leisure facilities to combat the spread of the virus. Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department said Monday that public facilities now closed include all sports facilities, beaches, camps, libraries, museums and performance venues.
Speed-building a hospital
Chinese officials launched an ambitious project to build a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan in less than two weeks. The government employed a small army of excavators to start the construction last week as the city’s existing medical facilities quickly became overloaded with patients. The facility is expected to be up and running in early February.
Shanghai Disneyland closes
“As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across China, we are temporarily closing Shanghai Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and Cast Members,” Disney said when it closed its resort this week.
The park is refunding guests and said it will remain in close contact with health and government officials as it considers a re-opening date in the future. More than 50 cases of the coronavirus have been identified in Shanghai so far.
Hong Kong Disneyland also followed suit and closed its own park on Sunday, though the resort’s hotels remained open.
McDonald’s shuts restaurants
Fast-food chain McDonald’s has thousands of locations across China. The majority remain open, but the company chose to close restaurants in sensitive areas where the virus has been spreading. This temporary closure covered five cities across Hubei province where the virus originated.
League of Legends tournament postponed
China’s premierin order to avoid potential health risks to players and fans.
China extends Lunar New Year holiday
The Lunar New Year holiday, which in 2020 celebrates the arrival of the Year of the Rat, is typically a time for travel, tourism, family reunions and festivities. The coronavirus outbreak has brought many of scheduled celebrations to a halt. The Chinese government announced it would extend the week-long holiday from Jan. 30 until Feb. 2. This will keep many schools closed longer and help promote preventative measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.
Movie theaters shut down
The Lunar New Year holiday period is traditionally massive for China’s box office. This year will be different. The movie industry in China reacted to the coronavirus by closing theaters and postponing film releases.
The country’s leading theater chains went dark as officials cautioned people against gathering in crowds. The closures affect 70,000 movie theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Olympic qualifiers moved
Wuhan, ground zero for the new coronavirus, was originally scheduled to host an Olympic qualifying tournament for women’s soccer. Australia will now take over hosting duties for the four-team competition.
Huawei postpones conference
Chinese technology companyfrom mid-February to late March over concerns about the coronavirus. The event was set to happened in Shenzhen, hundreds of miles from the center of the outbreak.
“Based on the prevention and control of the pneumonia epidemic situation of the new coronavirus infection, we attach great importance to the health and safety of all the participants,” Huawei said in its announcement.
DefCon China 2.0 canceled
The DefCon China 2.0 conference, which was scheduled for mid-April in Beijing, has been canceled, the event organizers announced Monday. DefCon said the cancelation was due to a six-month moratoium China has placed on events like the conference but isn’t abandoning the event. “We are committed to holding the event once it’s safe to do so,” organizers said in a tweet.
Gates Foundation commits $10 million
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Sunday it was immediately committing emergency funds and technical support “to help frontline responders in China and Africa accelerate their efforts to contain the global spread of 2019-nCoV.”
The philanthropic organization said it was already working with both public and private sector partners to aid in efforts to identify cases, isolate and care for patients, and “accelerate the development of treatments and vaccines.”
The rest of the globe has responded to the coronavirus threat by implementing health screenings for travelers from China and isolating suspected patients. With no specific treatment available at this time, the focus is on containment and prevention.