The World Health Organisation in Geneva announced it was “a bit too early” to declare a new coronavirus a global health emergency despite the untreatable virus infecting around 830 globally.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on January 24, 2020

The coronavirus has killed its first person outside the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan, as authorities lock down another eight cites in Hubei province which is home to 23 million people.

An 80-year-old man died in Hebei province near the capital Beijing on Wednesday. The announcement of his death from the virus was announced today. He was visiting relatives in Wuhan before he was diagnosed and 76 people who had close contact with him have been quarantined.

Eight cities in Hubei province Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuantu, have been locked down with the millions of residents ordered not to travel, South China Morning Post reported.

In the capital, Beijing, officials cancelled major events indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, to help control the spread of the virus, AP News reported. The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.

Twenty-five people have now died with at least 830 people infected, the Chinese government stated today.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced it was “a bit too early” to declare a new coronavirus a global health emergency despite the untreatable virus infecting around 650 globally.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the committee of 16 independent experts had been divided in its conclusion.

“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” said Tedros. Declaring the disease a global health emergency would have required countries to step up the international response, Reuters reported.

“China has taken measures it believes is appropriate to contain the spread of coronavirus in Wuhan and other cities. We hope they will be both effective and short in their duration,” added Tedros.

The coronavirus has been diagnosed in 23 Chinese provinces and four municipalities, the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and six other countries.

Foreign Departments are advising people not to travel to Hubei province. Hubei authorities also have ordered all schools to postpone the start of spring semester classes.

China’s finance ministry announced the allocation of 1 billion yuan (US$144 million) to be used by Hubei authorities to halt the spread of the illness.

Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, a specialist in Infectious Diseases and Associate Professor Of Medicine at The Australian National University, believes “it is highly likely that this virus jumped from animals”.

“A study appears to have shown that the novel coronavirus seems to be a combination of two viruses: one from a bat and a snake. This is plausible since both snakes and bats can be found in live food markets in China,” he explained via the Journal of Medical Virology.

“The proximity of the live animals and humans in the market could have allowed the passage of the coronavirus. Also, the preparation and/or consumption of undercooked meat could also have allowed transmission of the coronavirus.”