Update Saturday, January 25, 11:50 p.m.: As of 10:53 p.m. Beijing time on January 24, 1,377 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been found in China, with 1,983 suspected cases and 41 deaths. 39 individuals have recovered from the virus, a few in Beijing. The virus has now spread to Illinois, France, Singapore and Australia. Around 52 million people are in lockdown in 17 cities in Hubei Province, with the U.S. and French consulates evacuating all citizens in Hubei on Sunday, January 26. Private vehicles in Wuhan’s city center are now being banned from the streets as the city has started construction on a second hospital to treat patients. Outside Wuhan, 30 provinces have enacted “Level I” emergency responses, the country’s highest level of public health emergency response to the virus. This means the State Council, China’s cabinet, or its relevant departments are now in charge of related medical responses, including scientific research, management of emergency supplies and equipment, as well as international exchange and cooperation.
In Beijing, interprovincial (long-distance) bus services have been suspended as they are harder for citizens to be tracked (an ID isn’t consistently required to book bus tickets). 35 stations on the Beijing subway network have started temperature checks, with passengers with fevers being escorted to fever clinics. There have been isolated reports of local villages outside of Beijing imposing a sort of self-quarantine, barricading themselves inside. All of Beijing’s airports have started temperature checks. Throughout the day, there have been many rumors reported, including one that Beijing will be sprayed with planes containing disinfectant. This is not true. Another stated that the highways in and out of Beijing are closed. This is also not true. Many of the city’s parks and tourist attractions have closed until further notice.
Across the county, travel has become more limiting as many citizens have chosen to cancel their travel plans. We currently have a group of CET/Middlebury students in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province. Once a bustling station, Beijing South was reasonably quiet on Saturday morning as the train gradually filled up on its way to Harbin. Masked individuals were everywhere as the vast majority of Chinese people appear to be wearing masks in public, even in Harbin. Hong Kong has cancelled schools until mid-February. As reported in The New York Times, one study suggested that people infected with the coronavirus might be able to spread it even if they do not have flu symptoms. Based on the number of cases, it is likely that human-human transmission is occurring. Tourist attractions across the country, including as far west as Gansu Province and southeast into Yunnan Province, have closed until further notice. See here for the latest list. All domestic tour operators and Chinese tours abroad have been ordered to suspend services effective Monday, January 27. This includes popular tour sites such as trip.com. The association for China’s travel agencies said tour groups that were in the middle of their trips could proceed with their itineraries but should closely monitor the health of their travelers. Free refunds are given to train tickets across the nation’s rail network and some flights, particularly those in and out of Wuhan (which could possibly now be extended to all of Hubei Province). On January 23, 2020, the U.S Department of State raised its travel alert for the coronavirus outbreak. The travel notice for Hubei Province was raised to Level 4: Do Not Travel to Hubei province. The rest of China remains at Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions. This has not changed.
During the day on Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, President Xi Jinping sent a summary to the nation on Chinese television. “We’re sure to be able to win in this battle to beat the epidemic through prevention and control,” he said. He convened a meeting of his party’s leadership and CCTV aired a rare 7-minute news report of his meeting with the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s topmost decision-making body. Xi has ordered medicine and supplies to Hubei Province as health workers have started to come in from Guangdong and Shanghai.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will send out further updates as the situation progresses. The safety, security and health of all students is of utmost priority.