Published: Tue, January 21, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

World Health Organization to convene emergency meeting as China virus spreads

World Health Organization to convene emergency meeting as China virus spreads

The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed almost 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The Chinese government announced Tuesday it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as SARS, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

The outbreak appeared to be worsening when officials in China said the virus had spread to more cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, while the number of patients more than tripled and a third person died.

The outbreak began in December there and has been linked to a live-animal market in Wuhan called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market.

The English-language China Daily newspaper said the National Health Commission task force also found that some medical workers have tested positive for the virus.

"Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon", SARS expert Zhong Nanshan said on state-run television on Monday, according to The New York Times.

There are now no patients confirmed as being infected with novel coronavirus, according to the CHP.

Chinese health authorities confirmed late Monday that some cases had been transmitted person-to-person, a development that means the illness could spread faster and more widely, particularly at the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush.

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The World Health Organization will convene an Emergency Committee on Wednesday to determine if the outbreak "constitutes a public health emergency of worldwide concern" - and if so, what measures should be taken.

Chinese officials are warning that the virus can now spread from human-to-human contact.

As many Chinese citizens are expected to travel at home and overseas during the Lunar New Year holidays, which start later this week, it is feared the infection may spread.

According to Director of Health Dr. Constance Chan Hon-yee, there are 11-12 direct flights to Hong Kong from Wuhan each week. A further 205 are headed for overseas destinations, the most frequent of which is Thailand, which will receive 54 flights in the January 20-27 period, the website said.

It was first thought that it only spread from animals to people.

He also required the timely release of the latest information about situation of the disease and called for deepened global cooperation. The 89-year-old man, who had underlying health diseases including coronary heart disease, developed symptoms on Jan 13 and was admitted to hospital five days later, it added. There are now some 217 known infections, according to Chinese authorities, with 198 of them in Wuhan and another four cases reported in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

"When I watch the news, I'm a little anxious".

Authorities in Wuhan said they installed infrared thermometers at airports, train stations, and bus stops across the city. Passengers with fever were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions.

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