Number of cases rises daily
On Tuesday, Chinese authorities announced that the number of people in the country diagnosed with pneumonia caused by the virus had topped 4,000, with a death toll of 106.
The virus first made headlines early this month, when authorities in China began investigating a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. 44 people had been diagnosed, a number of whom had been working at a seafood market. Some had started showing symptoms, such as high fever and difficulty breathing, as early as December.
On January 8th, the World Health Organization announced the pneumonia outbreak could be the result of a new type of coronavirus. On the 14th, the body confirmed the link.
About two weeks later, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that the country's Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the mysterious virus had spread from the Wuhan seafood market, likely transmitted to humans by animals sold there. The market has since been closed.
Wuhan is now in a state of complete shutdown, with the government implementing measures unparalleled for a city of the size. Authorities closed all airports and train stations on the 23rd. And on Sunday, they banned vehicles without special permission from driving through the city center.
Media outlets say local bus services have also been suspended and that most highways in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, are closed.
State-run broadcaster CCTV has been focusing its coverage on the central government's efforts, airing footage of medical experts and military rescue teams being dispatched to Wuhan from across the country. It is also running reports on a 1,000-bed hospital being constructed in the city. Incredibly, the broadcaster says the facility will be completed by February 3rd.
On January 13th, Thailand's public health ministry said a tourist from Wuhan had been infected with the virus. Since then, cases have been confirmed in 17 countries and areas, including the US, Singapore, and France.
The spread of the virus comes during the Lunar New Year holiday, a time of year when many families in China go on vacation within the country and abroad. The travel restrictions imposed by the government have had staggering effects on the tourism industry across Asia.
Chinese travel agencies are canceling group trips scheduled to leave the country starting on January 27th. They have also suspended hotel and airplane reservations.
Japan's economy is expected to suffer a particularly heavy blow. Over 400,000 Chinese tourists were estimated to visit the country during the holiday. This number will likely crater as a result of the travel restrictions and fears of the virus. Staff members at a travel agency in Tokyo worked through the past weekend to field a flood of cancelations.
Meanwhile, the governments of Hong Kong and Macao have banned entry to people visiting from Hubei. And the Philippines are in the process of repatriating more than 460 travelers from Wuhan.
Evacuating from China
Countries are currently arranging charter flights to evacuate their citizens and diplomats from Wuhan. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi says the government will dispatch its first plane to Wuhan on Tuesday night. There are an estimated 560 Japanese citizens in Hubei Province. Meanwhile, the US State Department says citizens and diplomatic staff will depart Wuhan on a flight Wednesday morning.