On Wednesday, health officials in China once again announced a sharp increase in the number of reported cases of the mysterious new coronavirus that is now confirmed to have caused at least nine deaths, as we reported last night.
As hundreds of millions of Chinese leave the country for vacation destinations abroad - all part of what the NYT described as the largest human migration on Earth - the hysteria has reached a fever pitch.
In Japan, one shopkeeper in the mountain town of Hakone (a popular vacation destination) has been heavily criticized for hanging a sign outside his door reading 'no Chinese allowed'. The full message displayed on the sign (pictured below) reads: "No Chinese are allowed to enter the store...I do not want to spread the virus."
According to the SCMP, the as-yet-unidentified owner of the confectionery store told the Asahi newspaper that he used a translation application to write the message in Chinese, adding, "I want to protect myself from the virus and I don’t want Chinese people to enter the store."
Japanese tourism officials apologized for the shopkeepers' actions after he was roundly criticized on social media.
Shin Hae-bong, a professor of law at Aoyama Gakuen University, said the store owner was not breaking the law, as Japan doesn't have any laws against discrimination on the books.
And while Chinese tourists could try to take him to court, that would take some time.
"This is obviously wrong, but the only thing that could be done would be for a suit to be filed as many Japanese courts have in recent years ruled against places that bar people based on their nationality," she said.
"The courts have, in those cases, used the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the basis of their rulings."
Meanwhile, back in Wuhan, Chinese officials are taking drastic measures to try and contain the spread of the virus from the city where it was first discovered. Stocks steadied as China’s National Health Commission detailed its plan of action for stopping the virus's spread. According to Bloomberg, health officials said China has stepped up monitoring of transportation links and ordered a near-complete shutdown of the central city of Wuhan, where the virus originated. Officials acknowledged, however, that they’re still grappling to understand the pathogen, which has infected multiple medical workers.
"We are still on a learning curve," said Gao Fu, head of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "The disease will continue to develop," he said, adding that it has already changed from its early stages of detection.
However, while Beijing continues with its transparency act to try and calm the panic, China's Weibo users have been expressing their disappointment in their government in unusually blunt terms (considering the amount of censorship that goes on). Users on Weibo and WeChat complained about being left in the dark, and accused the government of endangering lives by waiting to disclose that the virus can travel between humans.
Overnight, the first instances of the virus were reported in Macau, and according to the SCMP, health authorities in Hong Kong are carrying out their third test to confirm that a patient from Wuhan is indeed infected with the virus.
Some 440 cases of the SARS-like virus have been confirmed so far across 13 Chinese provinces. China's medical authorities have 1,394 patients are under medical observation.
All of the deaths so far have been from Wuhan, a city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak. They include eight men, aged 61 to 87, and one 48-year-old woman. Almost all of those who have succumbed to the virus had preexisting medical conditions.
The most up-to-date map from the NYT (which still doesn't reflect all of the known cases) illustrates just how far the virus has spread both within China, and abroad.
Following confirmation from the CDC that the first case of the virus had been diagnosed in the US, President Trump said during an interview from Davos that his administration has everything "totally under control."
“We have it totally under control,” President Trump says after the CDC confirmed the first U.S. case of the coronavirus that has sickened hundreds of people in China. #Davos2020 https://t.co/QYmMpUcbFP pic.twitter.com/iuaQ1DikPB— CNBC (@CNBC) January 22, 2020
We're still waiting to see if the WHO, which is meeting Wednesday, will declare the outbreak a dangerous pandemic. The outbreak began in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China. Nine have died already. But how many more will succumb before this latest viral plague is contained?