Update Monday, January 27, 12:10 a.m.: As of 12:10 a.m. Beijing time on January 27, 2,079 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been found in China, with 2,692 suspected cases and 56 deaths. 49 individuals have recovered from the virus, a few in Beijing. The virus has now spread to a third case in the United States (a traveler who visited Wuhan) and Canada. The U.S. has announced that it will be sending a plane out of Wuhan for diplomats and citizens on Tuesday, January 28.
At 7:11 a.m. Beijing time on January 26, Middlebury’s Associate Dean of International Programs Liz Ross issued a statement to all students currently in China preparing for the spring semester, and our colleagues at CET did the same as well. Students have been asked to return to Beijing at their earliest convenience and stay in the CNU dorm hotel we have been living in for January. Our group of 3 students in Harbin will return to Beijing early, arriving on the night of Monday, January 27.
At a press conference on Sunday, the head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, said that “the epidemic has entered a more serious and complex period.” Noticeably different from SARS is that patients may have the virus without exhibiting any symptoms, and the incubation period is up to 14 days. The patient may be contagious during this time. According to Ma, the rate of the current epidemic is accelerating and is “likely to continue for some time.” Knowledge of the specific characteristics of the virus is still reasonably limited. A nine-month-old baby brought to Beijing from Wuhan has become the youngest person to be infected with the virus.
Across the country, travel has been hampered at best and restricted in many places. All DiDi drivers are required to wear masks and passengers are strongly encouraged to do so (required in some cities). In Guangdong Province, residents are required to wear masks in public. Masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer are in short supply, with 8 grocery stores and pharmacies here in Harbin out of stock. Over 40 percent of train tickets nationwide have been refunded, with over 300 trains being cancelled. Many of these trains are in and out of Wuhan. We have been closely monitoring the cancellations from over 20 railway bureaus across the country. The Jilin Province Hotel in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, called to cancel a reservation and told us to rebook in April or May. Colleagues at international travel agency WildChina have cancelled all departures in February, according to the company’s CEO. Hong Kong has prohibited any individuals from Hubei Province from entering (it is assumed that those flights have been cancelled). International airlines including Cebu Pacific have announced refunds on flights to all their cities in China. Temperature checks were in effect in Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3, and restaurants in Harbin have begun sanitizing customers’ hands before dining. Hotpot giant Haidilao has closed all stores nationwide until January 31 to reopen based on local conditions. The city of Suzhou has prolonged the New Year holiday and all intercity buses in Beijing, Tianjin and Zhejiang Province have announced suspension. It is evident that some restaurants and hotels across the country are closing, though the numbers are currently insignificant according to our research and analysis. Through contacts on WeChat, we are able to see a village of Luoyang, Henan Province, barricading its residents inside and villages to the north of Beijing have begun to do so as well.
The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education this afternoon announced that all schools in Beijing from kindergarten to colleges will indefinitely delay reopening after the Chinese New Year break to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes top universities such as Peking and Tsinghua, who will announce their start dates in another notice. Public schools were due to resume in Beijing on February 17.
Throughout the day, it is evident that the situation can change quickly as more restrictions are placed. Safety, security and health are of utmost priority and we will reevaluate in Beijing.