- Chinese authorities relaxed some travel restrictions and launched a “back to work tide” at factories on Monday, hoping to revive an economy stalled by the coronavirus outbreak that has so far infected more than 77,000 people and killed more than 2,600 in the country.
- The fastest-spreading outbreak beyond Asia is in Italy, where seven deaths and more than 200 infections have been reported as of Monday. Travel restrictions have put several towns in Lombardy into lockdown, threatening to push the Italian economy (whose growth was already sluggish before the outbreak) into recession.
- B.C. and Ontario each reported one new presumptive case on Monday and Sunday, respectively, bringing the number of Canadian diagnoses to 11. That doesn’t include the Canadians diagnosed on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japanese coast. Those 47 patients remain in Japan for treatment, while 129 others from the Diamond Princess were brought back to Cornwall, Ont., for quarantine.
What does this virus do?
The new virus that emerged last December in China – officially called COVID-19, previously known as 2019-nCoV, and informally dubbed the “Wuhan virus” after the city where it was found – is a coronavirus, a common type of infection among humans and animals. Corona means “crown” or “halo” in Latin, describing the viruses’ typical shape when seen under an electron microscope. The common cold is a type of coronavirus, but the Wuhan virus’s symptoms (severe coughing, fever and muscle pain) resemble the more serious and dangerous types, such as SARS and MERS.
Much is still unknown about COVID-19. Check The Globe and Mail’s guide compiling health officials’ advice for people who are travelling, sick or have questions about the virus.
What China has done
China’s response to the virus is one of the largest-scale public health mobilizations ever seen, with tens of millions affected by quarantine measures. Here are some of the steps officials have taken.
- Cutting off Wuhan and environs: China’s government suspended travel to and from Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, and more than a dozen nearby cities in Hubei province. Even local public transit was shut down to prevent the spread of the disease. Some local transit restrictions began to lift on Feb. 24, when China instituted a “back to work tide” to restart factories and businesses and reverse the economic slump caused by the outbreak.
- Extending the holidays: The initial outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year travel season, one of the largest annual migrations of people on Earth. To slow down post-holiday travel that could spread the virus, China extended the holiday, known locally as the Spring Festival, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.
- Banning the animal trade: Given the virus’s suspected connection to a wild game and seafood market in Wuhan, the Chinese government has outlawed the sale of all wild animals in China until more is known about how the coronavirus crossed the species barrier.
The Globe in China: Nathan VanderKlippe on the outbreak
Where has it spread outside China?
Where has it spread in Canada?
So far, there are only 11 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, seven in British Columbia and four in Ontario. But dozens more Canadians and their families fell sick aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japanese coast, which was put under a quarantine that only made the spread of the disease worse. Canadians infected aboard the ship remained in Japan for treatment, while those who were cleared were flown back to Canada and quarantined at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont.
Before the first cases appeared, Canadian health officials had put airports and hospitals on alert for possible cases, introducing screenings at airports in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Weeks after the outbreak began, Canada also chartered planes to get Canadian citizens and their families out of the affected cities in Hubei province, quarantining them for two weeks at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario.
Coronavirus and Canadians: More reading
SARS: What’s similar, what’s different
On both sides of the Pacific, the Wuhan outbreak has brought back unpleasant memories of SARS, a coronavirus that also originated in China and killed 44 people in Canada. But while the viruses may be similar, and while COVID-19 may have killed more people over all than SARS did, many of the conditions that made SARS such a threat in this country are less serious now.
The impact of SARS: After its emergence from Guangdong province, SARS spread to 8,098 people worldwide and killed 774 people worldwide, according to the U.S. CDC’s estimates. Canada was the hardest-hit country outside of Asia: Over all, 44 people were killed in Canada, and 438 Canadians were diagnosed with probable and suspected SARS. It led to billions of dollars in economic losses as visitors avoided Toronto during what came to be known as the “Spring of Fear.”
Better preparedness: Canadian health officials learned a lot from SARS about early detection of infectious diseases, and many have expressed confidence that they are better prepared this time. B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, for instance, noted before the first Canadian case appeared that officials already developed a test for the new coronavirus and had some idea of how it progressed, which they did not when SARS first arrived in 2003.
How the viruses differ: A study in the Lancet medical journal found some important differences in how the new coronavirus and SARS spread and cause symptoms. In one family in Shenzhen, the new virus produced symptoms within four days of exposure, whereas SARS’s incubation period is as long as 10 days. A shorter incubation period means that new cases of infection can be identified and quarantined sooner, reducing the spread of infection.
On the science
Other commentary and analysis
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from Nathan VanderKlippe, Carly Weeks, Ivan Semeniuk, Kelly Grant, Andrea Woo, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Canadian Press