Update Tuesday, January 28, 12:50 a.m.: As of 12:18 a.m. Beijing time on January 28, 2,858 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been found in China, with 5,794 suspected cases and 82 deaths. 56 individuals have recovered from the virus, a few in Beijing. The virus has now spread to a fifth case in the United States and 7 in Thailand. Along with the U.S., governments of the UK, France and South Korea will be investigating ways to remove their citizens from the Hubei area.
At the request of Middlebury Schools Abroad, our team of three students returned from Harbin early and have arrived in Beijing at 11:00 p.m. on January 27. We join one student from Chengdu, who has also arrived safely. We were the only students away from Beijing since the program has finished and have returned back to Beijing (I believe two students are outside of Mainland China). Throughout Harbin, we were often sprayed with some liquid on our jackets and hands before entering hotels. Trains are being cancelled, though not yet incredibly restricted. Upon arrival at Beijing Railway Station we witnessed crews in medical gowns on the platform. Our temperatures were checked upon exiting the station. Upon arriving in our housing at CNU, we were all placed in separate single rooms to undergo 14 days of health screening, since we came from outside Beijing.. This consists of 3 temperature checks throughout the day: 1 in the morning, 1 at noon, and 1 at night. The approved precaution is in accordance with local law.
A major update nationwide is from the State Council, China’s cabinet. It has decided to extend the Lunar New Year public holiday to Feb. 2, three days longer than initially planned, to limit travel. It also instructed kindergartens, schools and universities to postpone reopening. It appears that New Year holiday travel and the disease will be inevitably linked as the Chinese government attempts to stop its spread. According to the mayor of Wuhan, over 5 million people have left the city since the start of the disease. The mayor claims responsibility and has offered to resign. As written in Caixin, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, announced on Twitter Monday that he was on his way to Beijing to meet with officials and health experts as part of the coronavirus response. The process to diagnose a patient with the virus seems to be rather complicted, according to a doctor in Zhenghou. A person needs to be tested twice at the municipal and provincial levels. If it is the first case in the province, the specimen needs to be sent to the National Center for Disease Control and Inspection for confirmation.
Many Chinese residents across the country are forcing themselves to stay inside, though according to local contacts, supermarket supplies remain adequate and masks can be bought through the internet. Hotels are closing and the city of Beijing has cancelled its two-year countdown to the Winter Olympics on February 4. Premier Li Keqiang visited a Wuhan hospital today, which indicates that the government may have part of the situation under control. Schools in Beijing will start on February 17, earliest. All public transportation in a county in Jiangxi Province has been suspended. Tolls are free through February 2. Many gated neighborhood communities in Beijing have sealed themselves off from the outside. While not yet completely confirmed, anyone traveling in or out of China is now required to complete a health declaration form, available online or on paper. The Beijing Subway strongly encourages wearing masks and will roll out temperature checks on the entire network shortly.
Key stakeholders at CET and Middlebury will be meeting today, January 27 and are expected to release an update shortly thereafter. Other programs such as CIEE have not released any updates. School Year Abroad, a high school program in Beijing, (SYA) is sending many students home to the U.S. and will reevaluate shortly.
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.