Virus cases in China top SARS as evacuations begin

A Japanese chartered plane carrying evacuees from Wuhan, China, landed at Haneda international airport in Tokyo Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BEIJING (AP) — Countries began evacuating their citizens Wednesday from the Chinese city hardest-hit by a new virus that has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by SARS.

The number of confirmed cases jumped to 5,974, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

The death toll rose to 132, which is still lower than the 348 people who were killed in China by SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Scientists say there are still many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how transmissible and severe it is.

Chartered planes carrying about 200 evacuees each arrived in Japan and the United States early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from the city of Wuhan, which authorities have shut down to try to contain the virus.

The first cases in the Middle East were confirmed Wednesday, a family of four from Wuhan that was visiting the United Arab Emirates. Airlines around the world announced they were cutting flights to China, and Hong Kong was suspending rail travel to and from the mainland at midnight.

The number of cases in China rose 1,459 from the previous day, a smaller increase than the 1,771 new cases reported Tuesday. Australia and Singapore were among those reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. The vast majority are people who came from Wuhan.

Four passengers on the evacuation flight to Japan had coughs and fevers, and two were diagnosed with pneumonia.

It wasn’t clear whether they were infected with the new virus, which first appeared in Wuhan in December. Its symptoms, including cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses.

Takeo Aoyama, an employee at Nippon Steel Corp.’s subsidiary in Wuhan, told reporters he was relieved to be able to return home.

“We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly and we were still in the city,” Aoyama said, his voice muffled by a white surgical mask.

The U.S. plane was headed to California after a refueling stop in Alaska. All 201 passengers, who included diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, passed health screenings in China and Anchorage.

Australia, New Zealand and Britain were among the latest countries to announce they are planning evacuations.

British Airways said it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country. The airline has daily flights from London to Shanghai and Beijing.

British health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that “anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.” The measures are a step up from those during the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, when returning travelers from West Africa were asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said the steps are justified to prevent the introduction of the virus and its spread.

“There’s always a balance between the draconian measures of public health and what people might want to do, and obviously it’s regrettable if people who turn out not to have the virus are quarantined unnecessarily,” he said.

The outbreak has affected international sporting events. The International Hockey Federation postponed Pro League games in China, and soccer, basketball and boxing qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics in February have been moved outside of the country.

In Australia, health officials said the Chinese women’s national soccer team was quarantined in the city of Brisbane because it had passed through Wuhan a week ago.

The team will be kept in isolation in a hotel until Jan. 5. None of the 32 players and staff has shown symptoms.

In China’s Hubei province, 17 cities including Wuhan have been locked down, trapping more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.

Sara Platto, an Italian animal behavior researcher and veterinarian, said there were 25 Italians stuck in Wuhan, who stay in touch online for material and emotional support.

“My son turned 12 on January 23, the first day of the lockdown in Wuhan. So he couldn’t invite his friends over. We had a remote birthday celebration, with people ‘visiting’ him over WeChat,” Platto said, referring to a Chinese messaging app. “We called it the epidemic birthday.”

As much as panic, people spending most of their times indoors have to deal with boredom.

Her son Matteo usually has a very busy agenda between his school, sports, and volunteer work, but now “it’s like suddenly everything has slowed down,” Platto said. As with other international schools, classes are moving online until the all-clear is sounded.

The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. As of December, MERS had sickened nearly 2,500 people since its identification in 2012.

The source of the new virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, the World Health Organization said most cases reported to date “have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness.”

Scientists expect many crucial questions about the virus’ behavior will be answered in the coming weeks as the outbreak evolves and it becomes clearer how people are infected.

Although the Chinese health minister and others have suggested that the virus is spreading before people get symptoms, data to confirm that has not yet been shared widely beyond China.

“It’s still unclear whether that takes place,” said Malik Peiris, chair in virology at the University of Hong Kong.

If it does, that might explain why China has already exceeded the case numbers for SARS.

“The fortunate thing about SARS, if there was anything fortunate, was that transmission did not take place before symptoms,” he said. Peiris said that if it turns out that the new coronavirus can indeed be spread by people who don’t show any symptoms, “a pandemic is a scenario that we have to consider.”


Associated Press writers Christina Larson in Washington, D.C., and Jill Lawless and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

4 thoughts on “Virus cases in China top SARS as evacuations begin

  1. Personal comment regarding the Super bowl halftime show, Female Crotch grabbing, flesh exposing, vulgar, sexually explicit, pole dancing, strip show. In a culture where society is not supposed to objectify women, today the nation witnessed the grossest form of making women sex objects. What is the point of all this, are we at the point of must having a orgy of gorging ourselves on raunchy sex shows shoved in our face.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ethin!

    I can’t really comment on the half-time show since I didn’t see it. But if it’s anything like the past shows then I have to agree. And isn’t it funny in a very odd way that this is the era of women’s liberation, of women being empowered? Yet women are being sexualized more now then ever before! It goes hand in hand with abortion, women’s right to choose life or death of their unborn infants. But I really don’t expect anything less from the world, this is their mindset, this is how they think and how they act, and they force it upon everyone else.

    God bless! Maranatha!

  3. I am particularly interested in what is happening with 2019-nCoV (has anyone watched the film “Contagion” which was released years ago, staring Matt Damon? There are some striking resemblances to what is going on at the moment and the ability/likelihood of things being misrepresented). A Fox news report literally just came out mentioning concerns that China is downplaying the scale of the outbreak. For people interested in prophetic developments, I’d recommend watching the following video that brings a different and interesting angle to the story. It will be interesting to see where this leads and how it is used to bring about the NWO.

  4. Thanks for your comment Pete Kempf!

    I don’t like the video that you referred, it is very confusing and unclear on it’s message. Perhaps the message of this video is that the Chinese leader may be the Antichrist? However, the narrator of the video seems to be saying that the Chinese leader has all of the right answers but the rest of the world doesn’t agree with him (but then he couldn’t be the Antichrist because the world will love him and his answers), that’s the message that I get from watching this video, it really doesn’t make any sense.

    Rather than talking about how the Corona Virus plays a part in bible prophecy, the video seems to be making China and it’s leader out to be a hero, as if China has the answers and the rest of the world has been duped. They talk about how China has done everything right in regards to this viral outbreak, but have they really? Have they been honest and truthful about the virus and how they have handled it, about how it actually came about? The author of this video seems to think so very strongly, but I strongly disagree. The video also seems to be pushing the climate change agenda, as if it’s a real threat to humanity, when it’s actually a plan of the global elite. Should we as believers be concerned about the climate? Of course we should, but, God is in control of the climate, and that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be responsible caretakers of the earth, of course we should, but the Elite of the world have taken it to the extreme and are using it as a tool to unite the world under one government! How do we know that this virus wasn’t developed in a lab by the Global Elite? Perhaps in a lab in Wuhan itself? How do we know for sure, we don’t!

    The point is that the Corona Virus is a “sign of the times” just as Jesus Christ warned us about, but it’s just one of many signs, a sign of the beginning of sorrows or birth pangs, a sign of the closeness of Christ’s return. It’s not the one thing that will destroy mankind during the Tribulation period, but perhaps it could be one of many viruses that does, there are many, many things that will destroy much of the world’s population during that time period, pestilence may be one of them, however, pestilence is not mentioned in the Seal or Bowl judgments, but I suppose it could possibly be labeled under “death” in the Fourth Seal Judgment.

    The Corona Virus is just that, a virus, a pestilence that has increased in intensity as far as spreading quickly and being more deadly, just as in birth pangs. It is a sign of the times, just as the Ebola virus, AIDS/HIV, SARS, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, all things for us to watch for in knowing the closeness of Christ’s return. It is a sign, not the end-all, beat-all thing that will usher in the Antichrist. What does usher in the Antichrist is the confirming of a Covenant with the Jews, but I don’t plan to be here to find out who he is!

    We must be very careful on what we watch and listen to for we can easily be led astray and confused if we allow ourselves to be. The most important thing is what does the bible say about all of this?

    God bless! Maranatha!

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