An outbreak of human coronavirus, a virus causing respiratory illness in people, was detected in China in December 2019. It is rapidly spreading throughout the world, affecting 25 countries on five continents. Here is everything you need to know about the new coronavirus.

This is a developing story. This piece was last updated on February 21, 2020.



What is the coronavirus?

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There are seven types of human coronavirus known in the world, including the infamous SARS and MERS, which had outbreaks in 2003 and 2012-2013. The new coronavirus, or novel coronavirus, is scientifically named Covid-19. It is the first time scientists have encountered this particular coronavirus, which causes respiratory illnesses.

Where did the coronavirus outbreak start?

Photo: Google Maps

The coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, at the end of December 2019. It is believed that the virus started from an animal source from the Wuhan live wildlife market and is currently being passed from human to human. The exact source of Covid-19 is currently unknown, but some studies have revealed that it may have originated in bats.

How can one be infected by the new coronavirus?

Like many other respiratory illnesses, the new coronavirus is believed to be transmitted from human to human by respiratory droplets when one sneezes or coughs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus can also be contracted from touching infected surfaces or objects, but this is not the main way the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?

Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The new coronavirus can cause pneumonia or bronchitis.

Is the new coronavirus dangerous?

The new coronavirus can cause severe pneumonia and bronchitis. People with cardiopulmonary or cardiovascular diseases, weakened immune systems, children, and elderly people are the most at risk.

According to a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the recovery rate of people infected by the new coronavirus is encouraging; only 2.3 percent of those infected have died.

Can the new coronavirus be treated?

Being a new virus, there is currently no treatment or vaccine against Covid-19. The only thing medical professionals can currently do is alleviate the symptoms of the patients infected.

How to prevent being infected by the new coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC recommend that you:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands afterward
  • Throw all used tissues away, and wash your hands after use
  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands
  • Avoid contact with anyone who coughs, sneezes, or has a fever

To prevent others from getting infected:

  • Stay at home if you feel ill, and avoid contact with others
  • Thoroughly wash the objects and surfaces that you may have touched

Where is the new coronavirus now?

The following countries have identified cases of the new coronavirus:

  • China (including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan)
  • Malaysia
  • Japan
  • Nepal
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Philippines
  • The Republic of Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • India
  • Vietnam
  • Australia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Iran
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • United States
  • Canada

How many people have been infected by or died from the new coronavirus?

As of February 21, 2020, the WHO reports 76,769 confirmed cases, 75,569 of which are in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. There are 1,200 confirmed cases detected outside of China.

The death toll currently amounts to 2,247. Of that, 2,239 have occurred in Mainland China, one in Taiwan, two in Hong Kong, one in Korea, one in Japan, one in the Philippines, one in France, two in Iran, and two located on the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently quarantined in Japan.

What is being done to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus?

In the US

    • United States citizens who have been in Hubei province in the past 14 days will be quarantined for two weeks at military bases around the country.
    • US citizens who have traveled to mainland China in the past 14 weeks will undergo a health screening procedure at the airport. They may also be asked to quarantine themselves at home.
    • All flights to the US who have at least one passenger who has traveled to China in the past 14 days will be redirected to 11 airports to facilitate health screening and quarantines. The same goes for all flights from mainland China. The 11 points of entry are:

–San Francisco International Airport
–Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
–Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
–Chicago O’Hare International Airport
–Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport
–Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
–Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
–Detroit Metro Airport
–John F. Kennedy International Airport
–Newark Liberty International Airport
–Washington Dulles International Airport

  • Non-resident foreign nationals who have visited mainland China in the past 14 days will be denied entry to the US.
  • China Eastern Airlines has suspended all direct flights to the US.
  • Delta Air Lines has suspended all flights between the US and China until April 30, 2020.
  • American Airlines has canceled all flights to mainland China and Hong Kong until April 24, 2020.
  • United Airlines has suspended all its flights between the US and mainland China until April 24, 2020.

Around the world

  • While the International Olympic Committee has not made any recommendations regarding the possible cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Reuters reports that some sporting events in the country have been canceled and that Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto has demanded that anyone who feels ill does not attend the Olympic torch events that are starting on March 26.
  • Starting Thursday, February 20, 2020, Russia is barring most Chinese citizens from entering the country. This ban includes tourist, private, student, and work visa holders.
  • North Korea, which previously banned all foreign tourists from entering the country, is now imposing a 30-day quarantine on returning foreigners and nationals. Flights and train services with neighboring countries are suspended. There are currently no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in North Korea.
  • The cruise ship Diamond Princess carrying 3,700 passengers has been quarantined in the port of Yokohama in Japan since February 3, 2020. As of February 19, 2020, passengers who are testing negative and show no symptoms have been released. More will be allowed to leave in the coming days. There are 634 confirmed cases on the ship, all of whom will be transported to hospitals. Passengers who shared cabins with confirmed cases will remain on board for now.
  • Airbnb has suspended all its Beijing bookings until May 1, 2020.
  • As of Thursday, February 13, 2020, the village of Son Loi, in the province of Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, is under a 20-day quarantine. The community of 10,000 is home to 11 of the 16 coronavirus cases in Vietnam, according to Reuters.
  • Several nations, including New Zealand, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, and Iraq are now denying entry to non-resident foreign nationals who have traveled to mainland China recently.
  • Airlines, including Air France, Air Canada, British Airways, and Finnair, have canceled all their flights to mainland China. Others, such as Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and El Al have canceled select routes.
  • Cruise company Royal Caribbean is canceling select cruises and has said it would deny boarding to anyone who has visited mainland China and Hong Kong in the past 15 days.
  • China has suspended all group tours going abroad and the sale of flights and hotel packages since January 27, 2020.
  • As of January 23, 2020, nobody in the city of Wuhan is allowed to leave. Train stations and airports are closed. City buses, subways, ferries, and shuttle buses will not be operating until further notice. All other major cities in the Hubei province are on lockdown, and the whole province is quarantined from the rest of China. People entering are screened for coronavirus.
  • Chinese authorities have issued a ban on all wildlife trade. The source of the new coronavirus is allegedly linked to the live wildlife market in Wuhan.
  • In several regions and provinces of China (Guangdong, Anhui, Zhejiang, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Jiangxi, and Inner Mongolia, as well as Shanghai and Chongqing, according to Reuters), schools are closed until further notice.
  • In China, the Lunar New Year holiday has been prolonged to keep people at home. Schools are closed until further notice.
  • The Forbidden City in Beijing, parts of the Great Wall, and Shanghai Disneyland are closed to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Travel in and out of the Chinese capital of Beijing is limited.
  • Mongolia has closed its border with China, and schools in the country are closed until March 30.
  • Taiwan and South Korea have asked their citizens not to visit Central China.
  • North Korea is banning all foreign tourists from entering the country.
  • In Hong Kong, schools are closed until March 16, 2020. All rail service to mainland China is suspended and half the flights have been canceled.
  • Hong Kong and Malaysia are denying entry to visitors coming from the Hubei province.

What travelers need to know

As of January 30, 2020, the whole of China has been issued a “Level 4: Do not travel” travel advisory by the US Department of State-Consular Affairs.

The CDC is warning travelers to avoid all non-essential travel to China. It has also issued a travel notice about Japan, putting the country at “Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions”, the lowest of three possible travel warnings, saying “At this time, CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to Japan”.

Travelers who have visited Hubei Province in the past 14 days and are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus are asked to avoid all contact with other people and to seek immediate medical help.