Coronavirus outbreak: death toll rises to 56 as Canada confirms first case – updates

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus outbreak: China promises tougher crackdown to stop spread – as it happened” was written by Haroon Siddique (now), Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Ben Doherty (earlier), for theguardian.com on Sunday 26th January 2020 16.43 UTC

4.41pm GMT

What we know so far

  • The coronavirus’s ability to spread appears to be getting stronger, the country’s health commission minister has said. He added that the incubation period is one to 14 days and that unlike Sars, it is infectious during that period.
  • The death toll from the outbreak has risen to 56, while authorities said just over 2,000 have been infected. Health experts believe the real number of cases to be higher, as hospitals across Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, have experienced shortages of testing kits.
  • Another 1,000 cases are expected in Wuhan, the city’s mayor said. Zhou Xianwang said it was stepping up construction of specialist hospitals. He added that 5million people had left the city for new year celebrations.
  • The US, France and Japan said they were arranging evacuation flights for people trapped in Wuhan, which has been placed under quarantine. The US and Japan each reported a new case, taking the number of people infected to three and four respectively. Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea each confirmed a new case, while Thailand said it had identified three new cases.
  • In the UK, 52 people have tested negative for the coronavirus, the Department of Health and Social Care said. No one in the UK has tested positive.
  • The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, refused to confirm or deny reports that Britain is planning to evacuate more than 200 of its citizens in Wuhan. The foreign office has advised against travel to Hubei province.
  • A nationwide ban on trading wildlife has been imposed in China after experts warned that the sale of sometimes endangered species for human consumption is the cause both of the new coronavirus outbreak and other past epidemics.
  • Residents of Hubei province are to be banned from Hong Kong. The city state will also ban entry from Monday to people who have visited Hubei province in the past 14 days, the city’s government said. The rule does not apply to Hong Kong residents.
  • Long-distance buses have been suspended in the eastern province of Shandong, which has a population of 100 million people. Long-distance buses have also been banned from departing from or arriving at Beijing and Shanghai.
  • The financial hub of Shanghai, which has extensive international air connections, on Sunday reported its first death: that of an 88-year-old man who already had health problems.
  • Beijing said that the reopening of schools and universities after the new year holiday had been indefinitely suspended.
  • Upcoming tennis (Fed Cup) and football (Women’s Olympic qualifying) events have been moved from China. Boxing and basketball events had already been relocated because of the coronavirus.
  • Two of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they would close indefinitely. The city state reported its sixth case of coronavirus on Sunday.

Updated at 4.43pm GMT

3.56pm GMT

Jonathan Ashworth, the UK’s shadow health secretary, urged the government to reassure the public it is sufficiently prepared as the NHS is already struggling in the flu season.

He told the Guardian:

The NHS is currently under immense strain this winter with staff already working flat out and hospitals overcrowded. We need urgent reassurance from ministers they have a plan to ensure we have capacity in place to deal with Coronavirus should we need to,

3.43pm GMT

AFP’s Hong Kong correspondent is reporting what is believed to be the youngest person – a baby girl – infected so far.

3.28pm GMT

This gives an idea on how difficult it may be to prevent the coronavirus spreading despite the quarantine.

3.06pm GMT

Hong Kong has imposed new restrictions on people from the province at the centre of the outbreak, AFP’s correspondent there reports:

2.53pm GMT

Another sporting event has been moved from China as a result of the coronavirus:

2.46pm GMT

Earlier, I reported on protests in Hong Kong against a plan to turn a newly built but currently empty public housing block in Fanling into a quarantine facility for people with coronavirus.

Here ia an update from AFP:

Dozens of local residents and protesters opposed to the idea held rallies outside the complex on Sunday, with some setting up road blocks.

In the evening, police said assailants threw petrol bombs at the buildings.

An AFP photographer on the scene saw fierce flames coming from the entrance of two apartment blocks before firefighters got the blaze under control.

Riot police were on scene and protesters had left, although some local residents were arguing with officers who used pepper spray.

The Centre for Health Protection said the plan to turn the housing estate into a quarantine zone would be suspended.

The agency has already turned a holiday park in an isolated rural area into a working quarantine facility. Two other holiday parks located away from major housing estates are also ready to be used as similar facilities.

But officials say they have struggled to find hotels and spare rooms for doctors and nurses working on the isolation wards where patients are being treated.

The virus outbreak comes at a time when Hong Kong is already boiling with widespread anti-government sentiment after seven months of often violent pro-democracy protests.

First aid volunteers work to extinguish a fire set by local residents at a building of the Fai Ming Estate, in the Fanling district of Hong Kong, after the Hong Kong government announced it would requisition the unoccupied housing project to house quarantined patients of the new viral coronavirus illness.
First aid volunteers work to extinguish a fire set by local residents at a building of the Fai Ming Estate, in the Fanling district of Hong Kong, after the Hong Kong government announced it would requisition the unoccupied housing project to house quarantined patients of the new viral coronavirus illness.
Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

2.32pm GMT

This is from Reuters:

2.26pm GMT

52 people test negative in UK

As of Sunday afternoon, 52 people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been tested for the new coronavirus, but all tests were confirmed as negative, the Department for Health and Social Care has just said.

It said it will be providing an update on the figures every day at 2pm.

Updated at 2.29pm GMT

2.21pm GMT

Nathalie MacDermott, NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) academic clinical lecturer, at King’s College London, has said the suggestion that coronavirus is infectious during the incubation period is “not surprising”, adding:

This was taken account of in some of the modelling exercises undertaken by colleagues recently, and was likely given the degree of spread of the outbreak within China. There is often the question of whether individuals who may be infected with the virus but never show any symptoms (asymptomatic or subclinical cases) may also be contagious to others.

The report from Zhejiang suggests this may be the case, but further confirmation is required. This report highlights the importance of identifying individuals who may have travelled from affected regions or had contact with a known case of 2019-nCoV infection to establish if they may have symptoms and to request they limit their attendance at public gatherings in order to try and contain the spread of infection.

While these findings may cause concern, the possibility of transmission of virus during the incubation period and from asymptomatic individuals has been considered by public health authorities and the WHO, and has been included as a factor within response plans to tackle an outbreak of an airborne virus.


2.01pm GMT

AFP has a report from an overwhelmed-sounding hospital in Wuhan:

At one Wuhan hospital AFP visited, there were long queues of sick patients, many coughing, with overwhelmed staff unable to process them quickly.

Outside the Red Cross facility – which is one of the hospitals people are sent to for initial tests if they show signs of infection – patients told AFP they felt exasperated and helpless.

“It has been two days since I slept, and I have been wandering from hospital to hospital,” said a man in his 30s, who was trying to see a doctor because he was worried he might be infected.

“At this rate, my turn will be tomorrow morning at best.”

Those who spoke to AFP told of extremely long queues and disorganisation.

One spoke of a fear that sick patients with fevers will infect each other while waiting in long queues, even if they didn’t have the coronavirus when they first arrived at the hospital.

Another man said he had seen several people faint while waiting.

Many people carried their own plastic stools to sit on, while one pragmatic man had brought a lounge chair with him.

“It takes at least five hours to see a doctor,” one woman, who didn’t want to be named, told AFP.

The woman, who was with her son, said the management of the hospital was “really messy”.

An old man wearing a Mao cap said he had waited all day to see a doctor, only to be sent home because of a “lack of room”.

AFP saw some patients inside the hospital who were without masks, despite city orders that anyone going out must wear them.

Patients were taking their own temperatures with mercury thermometers, by mouth or armpit, and there were no checks on anyone entering or leaving the hospital.

“There is no more space, the staff are overwhelmed, there is a shortage of some medicine, and patients are being left to fend for themselves,” said one 30-year-old.

1.21pm GMT

Summary

  • The coronavius’s ability to spread appears to be getting stronger, the country’s health commission minister has said. He added that the incubation period is one to 14 days and that unlike Sars, it is infectious during that period.
  • The death toll from the outbreak has risen to 56, while authorities said almost 2,000 have been infected. Health experts believe the real number of cases to be higher, as hospitals across Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, have experienced shortages of testing kits.
  • The US, France and Japan said they were arranging evacuation flights for people trapped in Wuhan, which has been placed under quarantine. The US and Japan each reported a new case, taking the number of people infected to three and four respectively. Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea each confirmed a new case, while Thailand said it had identified three new cases.
  • The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, refused to confirm or deny reports that Britain is planning to evacuate more than 200 of its citizens in Wuhan. The foreign office has advised against travel to Hubei province.
  • A nationwide ban on trading wildlife has been imposed in China after experts warned that the sale of sometimes endangered species for human consumption is the cause both of the new coronavirus outbreak and other past epidemics.
  • Long-distance buses have been suspended in the eastern province of Shandong, which has a population of 100 million people. Long-distance buses have also been banned from departing from or arriving at Beijing and Shanghai.
  • The financial hub of Shanghai, which has extensive international air connections, on Sunday reported its first death: that of an 88-year-old man who already had health problems.
  • Beijing said that the reopening of schools and universities after the new year holiday had been indefinitely suspended.
  • Two of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they would close indefinitely. The city state reported its sixth case of coronavirus on Sunday.

12.58pm GMT

World Animal Protection has welcomed China’s decision to impose a wildlife trade ban, effective from today.

Kate Nustedt, the organisation’s global wildlife director, said:

We commend China’s decision to impose a nationwide ban on wildlife trade in response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak. This ban will prevent the terrible suffering endured by millions upon millions of wild animals across the country.

Crucially, it will also put a stop to the horrific conditions that serve as such a lethal hotbed of disease. We hope that this courageous step is made permanent and extended to all wildlife imports and exports, to help prevent any future crises of this nature.

Wild animals belong in the wild. This wildlife trade ban by China will help keep them there.

12.36pm GMT

Thailand, the country with the most confirmed cases outside China of the new coronavirus, said on Sunday that three of the people infected were being treated and five had recovered and gone home.

The public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, called an emergency meeting on Sunday, pledging:

We can control the situation and are confident in our ability to handle the crisis.

The Thai government has faced accusations that it is prioritising tourism – China is Thailand’s biggest source of tourists with nearly 11 million visitors last year – over public health.

The hashtag #crapgovernment was top trending on Twitter in Thailand on Saturday with more than 400,000 tweets. Users complained about the management of the virus and other health issues.

Anutin insisted the government would not prioritise tourism revenue over health.

If it reaches a point where public health is in danger, we will take (more) action …Detecting infected patients is a good sign because it shows that our system is efficient.

All but one of the eight cases in Thailand were tourists from Wuhan, the central Chinese city that is at the centre of the outbreak. One Thai national, who had visited Wuhan over the New Year, contracted the disease.

There have been no cases of human-to-human transmission in Thailand.

The government is scanning passengers arriving on flights from Guangzhou across five airports including the main Suvarnabhumi airport, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Don Muang and Krabi.

Based on numbers during the Sars outbreak in 2003, three months of reduced travel from China would result in 50 billion baht (.52 billion) of lost tourism revenue, the minister of tourism and sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said.

Major shopping malls in Thai tourist spots have introduced hygiene measures. Mass transit operators including the Bangkok skytrain and subways are increasing the frequencies of wipedowns and spraying disinfectant in trains, the Transport Ministry said.

12.13pm GMT

China has withdrawn as host of the qualifiers for this year’s Olympic football tournament for women.

12.10pm GMT

The pope has prayed for the victims of coronavirus, while praising China’s response to the outbreak. From Reuters:

“I would like also to be close to and pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China,” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square for his weekly message and blessing.

“May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic,” he said.

Relations between the Vatican and Beijing have improved since September, 2018 when the two sides signed a historic pact on the naming of bishops. Conservative Catholics have objected to the pact, accusing the Vatican of having sold out to the communist government.

Pope Francis addresses attendees from the window of the Apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday.
Pope Francis addresses attendees from the window of the Apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday.
Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

11.56am GMT

Chinese associations in Paris cancelled Sunday afternoon’s Chinese new year’s parade in the centre of the city following the coronavirus epidemic.

The mayor Anne Hidalgo said Paris’s Chinese community was “very emotional and concerned” so decided it was best for the parade not to go ahead.

The city of Bordeaux also cancelled Chinese new year celebrations to limit infection risk and as a gesture of support for victims in China, the mayor said.

France has identified three cases, currently being treated in hospital: two in Paris and one in Bordeaux.

The French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, said that she was expecting new cases to be detected in the country.

She said that on Sunday morning five people were undergoing assessment in hospital, where they were isolated from others. She said a total of ten cases were under observation.

The French prime minister will hold discussions with ministers on Sunday on measures to limit spread of the virus.

Updated at 12.02pm GMT

11.49am GMT

AFP reports that some of the private cars on the road in Wuhan have been given special dispensation to travel to ferry the sick:

Defying the threat from a contagious respiratory illness that broke out in the city and has killed dozens of people, Zhang Lin and other Wuhan residents are pitching in by driving sick fellow citizens to hospital.

“We’re from Wuhan, and even though you guys are here to help us, our own citizens should also come out to (help),” Zhang Lin told AFP journalists as he waited for a patient to emerge from a clinic for the drive back home.

“There has to be someone who does this.”

The 48-year-old Zhang and others have been enlisted by the government to provide the free service, and it is sorely needed.

Wuhan has for days been the nucleus of a transport lockdown that began in the city of 11 million and has since been expanded to much of the rest of Hubei province, in an attempt to cut off transmission routes for the virus.

Wuhan’s public transport system has been halted, taxi services curtailed and, on Sunday, new restrictions were introduced banning most cars from the streets.

Difficulty getting around adds another challenge for sick people who, even after they reach overwhelmed hospitals, may need to wait hours to see hard-pressed doctors.

But drivers like Yin Yu have obtained special dispensation to drive for humanitarian reasons.

“There are no cars, so we are responsible for sending them there … and taking them back. This is all for free,” said Yin, 40.

A public announcement blaring from a loudspeaker in the city on Sunday offered tips on hygiene and seeking medical care, but also a dose of civic pride.

“Wuhan is a city that dares to face difficulties and keeps overcoming them,” said a female voice.

“This is not the first time we have faced a similar situation. In 1998 we fought against extreme (Yangtze River) flooding. In 2003 we fought SARS,” it said, referring to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a national viral epidemic similar to the current one.

“We’ve come a long way and have had great results!”

A lone car drives down a disserted street in Wuhan on Sunday.
A lone car drives down a disserted street in Wuhan on Sunday.
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

11.18am GMT

The FT’s Tom Hancock says some people are flouting the lockdown in Wuhan.

11.14am GMT

Another province of China, Hainan, has shut down all inter-province buses. It is the latest in a series of cities and provinces to take similar steps in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

10.57am GMT

Japan is reporting its fourth case of the new coronavirus.

The case was confirmed in a resident of Wuhan in his 40s who had arrived in Japan on 22 January on holidays, NHK said, citing the health ministry. The man was hospitalised in Aichi prefecture, central Japan, and tested positive for the virus, it said.

Earlier today, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said the country would evacuate any of its citizens in Wuhan who wished to return to Japan.

Updated at 11.11am GMT

10.51am GMT

Here is a full quote from the press conference today, from Ma Xiaowei, China’s health commission minister.

The transmissibility shows signs of increasing and the ‘walking source of infection’ [where patients have few signs of disease] has made it difficult to control and prevent the disease.

For this new coronavirus we have not identified the source of the infection and we are not clear about the risk of its mutation and how it spreads. Since this is a new coronavirus there might be some changes in the coming days and weeks, and the danger it poses to people of different ages is also changing.

Ma Xiaowei, the director of China’s National Health Commission, speaks at a press conference about a virus outbreak at the State Council Information Office in Beijing.
Ma Xiaowei, the director of China’s National Health Commission, speaks at a press conference about a virus outbreak at the State Council Information Office in Beijing.
Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Updated at 10.58am GMT

10.24am GMT

The semi-autonomous region of Macau has imposed new restrictions on vistitors from mainland China, AFP’s Hong Kong correspondent reports.

10.10am GMT

Hubei province has suspended inter-province and inter-city buses intensifying the lockdown designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Chinese state media is reporting.

Shandong province and the cities of Beijing, Tianjin an Xi’an had earlier suspended inter-city and chartered buses from crossing their borders.

9.53am GMT

In Hong Kong, residents are protesting about the construction of a quarantine camp for people infected with the coronavirus. The reference in the first tweet to yellow and blue, alludes to the colours adopted by supporters of the city’s protest movement against Chinese interference and those who suppport the police, respectively.

9.37am GMT

The BBC’s China correspondent paints a vivid picture of life inside Hubei province in this video:

9.32am GMT

The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has said the country will evacuate any of its citizens in Wuhan who wish to return to Japan.

9.06am GMT

Beijing is postponing the reopening date of the city’s kindergartens, schools and universities, China National Radio is reporting (via Reuters).

9.00am GMT

The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, refused to confirm or deny reports that Britain is planning an airlift of its citizens from China.

She would only tell Sophy Ridge on Sunday, on Sky News: “We are looking at all options.”

The UK foreign office has advised citizens against all travel to Hubei province.

8.52am GMT

Hong Kong has reported a sixth case, according to AFP’s correspondent in the city state.

8.47am GMT

A third case of coronavirus has been identified in the United States.

The latest case is in Orange County, Southern California. The Orange County Health Care Agency announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a traveler from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, tested positive for the virus. The patient is in isolation at a hospital and in good condition, a release from the agency said.

That patient had been in contact with the local health agency and was provided guidance to reduce exposure to others while health officials awaited laboratory confirmation. After consulting with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health, the Orange County agency will follow up with people who have had close contact with the patient.

Guidance from the CDC advises that people who have had casual contact with the patient are at minimal risk for developing infection. There’s no evidence that person-to-person transmission occurred in Orange County, and the risk of local transmission remains low, the release said.

The previous two cases in the US were in Chicago and Washington state.

8.35am GMT

Taiwan has further tightened restrictions on visitors from China to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus, suspending entry for many apart from business travellers and a few other exceptions like people married to Taiwanese, Reuters reports.

Taiwan has already stopped Chinese tour groups from visiting, and has now banned all people from Hubei from coming to the island.

Most other Chinese citizens will not be allowed in for the time being, aside from people involved in fighting the virus or on humanitarian grounds, the island’s newly established Central Epidemic Command Centre said in a statement.

Chinese business travellers will also be permitted entry, but have to agree to have their health monitored for two weeks after entry, the command centre said. Spouses from Hubei will have to stay in quarantine at home for the same period, it said.

Chinese students studying in Taiwan will have to postpone their return to the island for two weeks, it added, while students from Hubei cannot return at all until further notice.

A medical staff member (L) wears protective clothes at the emergency department of a hospital in Taipei, Taiwan
A medical staff member (L) wears protective clothes at the emergency department of a hospital in Taipei, Taiwan
Photograph: David Chang/EPA

8.18am GMT

China’s national health minister Ma Xiaowei said the new coronavirus is also infectious during incubation, which is different from Sars.

He said authorities’ knowledge of the new virus was limited and they are unclear on the risks posed by mutations of the virus.

The press conference ended with a promise to live up to “the expectations of the people” and to increase transparency. To that end, they said there would be a press conference every morning.

Updated at 8.20am GMT

8.02am GMT

I will now be handing over to my colleague Haroon Siddique in London who will be covering the latest updates on the outbreak

7.44am GMT

‘Virus’s ability to spread seems to be getting stronger’ – minister

At a press conference by the State Council Information Office of China, they confirmed that there have been 2,057 cases of coronavirus globally. China’s national health minister Ma Xiaowei said that it is possible the pathogen causing the virus came from a wild animal, and that 1,600 medical professionals were being dispatched to Wuhan to help handle the rising number of cases.

Ma admitted that the virus’s ability to spread seemed to be getting stronger and that they were not clear about the risks of the virus mutating. The incubation period is between 1 and 14 days, he said, and said it was likely the number of cases would continue to rise.

Updated at 8.00am GMT

7.28am GMT

China bans wildlife trade

The markets watchdog, agricultural ministry, and forestry bureau said in a joint statement that China has banned wildlife trade nationwide in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms due to the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.

Any places that breed wildlife should be isolated, and the transportation of wildlife should be banned, said the statement. The ban will take effect from Sunday.

7.23am GMT

The US Embassy in China has confirmed it is making arrangements to relocate people working at the US Consulate General in Wuhan. There is a flight due to fly from Wuhan to San Francisco on Tuesday but the embassy warned that not all US citizens would be able to board.

“If there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus,” the embassy said in a statement on their website.

7.13am GMT

Hong Kong now has a sixth confirmed case of coronavirus. According to reports, the patient, who was admitted to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, had recently travelled to Wuhan on a high speed train before returning to Hong Kong

7.06am GMT

Some more pictures from the news wire.

Deserted streets in Wuhan today.
Deserted streets in Wuhan today.
Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters
Boxes of protective masks and other supplies are loaded onto a train as a team of medical professionals departs Nanjing to provide aid to Wuhan.
Boxes of protective masks and other supplies are loaded onto a train as a team of medical professionals departs Nanjing to provide aid to Wuhan.
Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

6.55am GMT

Local state media is now reporting that the city of Shantou will now not be banning cars, ships and people from entering the city tomorrow but will instead strengthen disease controls such as disinfection efforts. This contradicts earlier statements by the local government, which have now been removed from Shantou city’s website

6.49am GMT

In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, China has banned long distance buses between several major cities, including Beijing.

The eastern Shandong province, with a population of 100 million people, will suspend long-distance buses entering the province, state broadcaster CCTV reported, following the announcement of similar measures in the cities of Tianjin, Beijing and the historic Xi’an.

5.56am GMT

Authorities have confirmed that China’s coastal city of Shantou in Guangdong province, over 500 miles away from Wuhan, will be the next city to be put on lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus.

People, cars and ships will all be banned from entering Shantou from first thing Monday, and this afternoon all buses, taxis and ferries were suspended in the city. There are now 15 partially or fully locked down cities but Shantou is the first outside Hubei province to be placed under restrictions.

Updated at 6.09am GMT

5.47am GMT

This footage from AFP captures how Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has become a ghost town as the new restrictions on vehicles are imposed and people have confined themselves to their homes

5.14am GMT

We have a interesting insight into how the outbreak first affected people in Wuhan as a local woman tells us how she contracted the virus after eating near the now infamous market in the city.

5.03am GMT

This liveblog is now moving from Australia (where it’s Australia Day, somewhat controversially) to India, where it’s Republic Day.

My colleague in New Delhi, Hannah Ellis-Petersen, is taking over. You can correspond with her by the usual channels.

My best, Ben.

Updated at 5.19am GMT

4.42am GMT

The state-run People’s Daily newspaper says China has started to develop a vaccine for 2019-nCoV, the novel coronavirus that has so far claimed 56 lives across the country and infected another 2000.

The paper also reports the Chinese government has sent 450 military medical staff, including many with experience dealing with the Sars and Ebola outbreaks, to the epicentre of the pandemic in Wuhan.

Updated at 4.44am GMT

4.16am GMT

More from Australia (where your current correspondent is):

Australia’s foreign affairs minister Marise Payne has said the Australian government is working with Chinese authorities to “consider possible assistance with travel for Australians from areas that are affected by Chinese travel restrictions”.

“Given the circumstances of the spread of the coronavirus, Chinese authorities are currently imposing very tight restrictions on all travel from Hubei. We are seeking advice from the Chinese authorities on these restrictions and whether any options are available to international travellers.”

Other countries, including the US and France, are putting into place plans to evacuate their citizens.

Updated at 4.29am GMT

4.06am GMT

Australia’s chief medical officer has warned it is likely there will be more cases of the coronavirus in the country, following confirmation of four cases.

Professor Brendan Murphy said he would be sending out a message to GPs across the country on how to handle patients who present with symptoms of the deadly illness.

Three men are in hospital in Sydney after flying in from China, while another man in his 50s is being treated in Melbourne. All have a direct link to Wuhan, having either visited the city recently or been in direct contact with a confirmed case from that city.

Coronavirus has killed 56 people in China and the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, remains in lockdown. More than 2,000 people in China have been infected.

Cases have also been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, Vietnam, France and Malaysia.

“There is no cause for general concern,” Murphy told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“I would not be surprised if there are some more cases … it’s highly likely that we may see them some more.

“We are incredibly well-prepared to isolate and deal with that.”

Updated at 4.11am GMT

3.57am GMT

More details on countries trying to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan city and from Hubei province. The US government is flying its personnel out, directly to San Francisco, with a limited capacity for other Americans most at risk from coronavirus.

From AP:

The US consulate in the epidemic-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight Tuesday.

A notice Sunday from the embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport US citizens on the flight that will proceed directly to San Francisco.

It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus”, a new respiratory disease that has sickened 1,975 people and killed 56, almost all in Wuhan.

Updated at 4.13am GMT

3.30am GMT

China’s travel restrictions to restrict the spread of coronavirus appear to be widening further. At least 13 cities, covering 36 million people, are already living under lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Now reports are emerging that the city of Shantou in Guangdong Province, population 5.3 million, will be put on lockdown.

Starting at 2pm local time on Saturday, buses, ferries, and taxi services will cease. From Monday (27 January) no cars, boats or people will be allowed into the city, except for emergency purposes.

Shantou is more than 800km from Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic.

Updated at 3.32am GMT

3.21am GMT

China’s second-largest city Shanghai, now has 40 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Updated at 3.26am GMT

3.18am GMT

Asian stock markets have so far taken a bit of a hit from concerns about the coronavirus.

There were some steep losses on Chinese and Hong Kong markets especially, but nothing to upset the global equilibrium so far.

The Dow Jones industrial average is only around 400 points of its all-time high of 29,369 earlier this month.

That could change on Monday when markets reopen after a weekend that has seen the outbreak worsen in China and spread to Europe and Australia.

However, Chinese markets will be closed all week for the lunar new year so will be insulated from any losses for now.

If history is any guide, and somewhat extraordinarily, global pandemics appear to have little impact on markets:

Updated at 3.20am GMT

3.06am GMT

Hong Kong has declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The city has reported five confirmed cases of coronavirus: all of those patients have direct links to Wuhan. Health authorities say there are a further 122 patients being treated as potentially having the disease.

The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam said her government had cancelled Lunar New Year’s celebrations, and that it would close primary and secondary schools for two further weeks beyond the new year holiday. Schools will reopen 17 February.

Lam said all direct flights and trains from Wuhan would be blocked from entering Hong Kong.

Updated at 3.18am GMT

2.43am GMT

France and a major car manufacturer said Saturday that they are moving to get citizens out of a locked-down Chinese city where a deadly outbreak of a new virus originated and has spread worldwide.

French automaker PSA Group says it will evacuate its employees and their families from Wuhan in central China, quarantine them in another major Chinese city and then bring them back to France.

The Foreign Ministry said French officials were studying “eventual options” for all its nationals to leave if they wish.

It comes a day after France announced three cases of the new virus were being treated in two French hospitals, the first confirmed cases in Europe. All the patients are Chinese nationals who had recently returned from China.

Other countries have made similar moves.

The United States is preparing to evacuate its consular staff and citizens from Wuhan. About 1,000 US citizens are estimated to be in Wuhan. The US consulate in the city is closed and all diplomats have been ordered to leave.

The logistics of how the Americans will leave, where they will go and what will be allowed by Chinese authorities, is currently being worked through by the US State Department, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated at 2.50am GMT

2.31am GMT

AFP have filed a few pictures from Wuhan, which has been in lockdown for several days.

Medical staff wearing protective clothing arrive with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross hospital in Wuhan on Saturday.
Medical staff wearing protective clothing arrive with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross hospital on Saturday.
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images
A person waits for treatment at Wuhan Red Cross hospital.
A person waits for treatment at Wuhan Red Cross hospital.
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images
A patient is delivered to Wuhan Red Cross hospital on Saturday.
A patient is delivered to Wuhan Red Cross hospital on Saturday.
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 2.33am GMT

2.12am GMT

Chinese president Xi Jinping says his country faces a “grave situation” in tackling the escalating coronavirus crisis. He has called for a greater centralisation of containment efforts, and increasing government control.

“Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it,” Xi told a meeting of the standing committee of the political bureau of the Chinese Communist party, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Updated at 2.14am GMT

2.04am GMT

The World Health Organization has not altered its alert level for 2019-nCoV

1.23am GMT

From the BBC’s Stephen McDonell, who is in Hubei province: (Australian readers will remember Stephen from his long service with the ABC…)

Updated at 5.08am GMT

1.16am GMT

From the BBC’s Stephen McDonnell: deserted streets in Hubei province

1.13am GMT

Sunday has brought an increase in the proportion of deaths outside of Hubei province, the epicentre of the pandemic. State media is reporting that Shanghai has recorded its first death, as well as Henan province.

Tianjin city has announced it will shut all inter-provincial shuttle buses from 27 January (Monday) to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Updated at 2.15am GMT

1.11am GMT

Revised death toll now at 56

State media in China is now reporting the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak is 56. All of the known deaths from the virus have occurred within China.

Nearly 2,000 cases have been confirmed, and there are another 2,600 suspected cases.

Updated at 2.16am GMT

1.05am GMT

To Canada next where health officials in Toronto have added a slight qualification to their initial statements saying that they had a confirmed case of novel coronavirus. They say the case is “presumptive” which means they’re waiting for definitive lab tests after initial tests at a provincial lab showed it was the virus.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre had said on Saturday night local time that it was caring for a man is his 50s who had recently flown from Wuhan to Guangzhou and then on to Toronto on 23 January. “He really wasn’t in Toronto very long. He wasn’t feeling well. I think he was at home and the people that live with him are in self isolation,” said Dr Barbara Yafe, Ontario’s associated chief medical officer.

But Eileen de Villa, head of the city’s public health agency, said at a press conference in the last hour that “We have the first presumptive case confirmed of this novel coronavirus here.”

Updated at 2.16am GMT

12.53am GMT

More on the latest figures on victims in China. The toll stood at 41 on Saturday but 13 fatalities have been added overnight to make 54 deaths so far. The Hubei health ministry says seven of the latest deaths were from that province with the remainder elsewhere in China, marking a rise in the proportion of deaths outside the epicentre region.

There were also another 323 people infected, taking the nationwide total to more than 1,600. Only 46 of the new confirmed cases were in Hubei, the ministry said.

Updated at 2.17am GMT

12.45am GMT

Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in China and around the world. These are the main developments today:

  • Officials in China said on Sunday that the death toll has risen to 54 and the number of people infected is more than 1,600.
  • Chinese president Xi Jinping says the country faces a “grave situation” as it battle to contain the fast-spreading contagion.
  • Lunar new year celebrations were subdued across China on Saturday with an estimated 50 million people subject to travel restrictions in the epicentre Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province.
  • The outbreak has spread to many other Asian countries and three other continets with cases confirmed in Australia, France and the United States.
  • A man in his 50s was confirmed as the first case in Canada on Saturday night. He had recently flown from Wuhan to Guangzhou in southern China and then on to Toronto on 23 January.
  • The British Foreign Office has advised citizens against all travel to Hubei province.
  • French carmaker PSA, which makes brands including Peugeot and Citroen, on Saturday said it would repatriate expat staff from the Wuhan region where it has 38.
  • Researchers are racing to work out if infections have been caused by animal to human contact, which would limit the spread, or whether the majority are being caused by human to human transmission.
  • Li Bin, vice minister at the national health commission, will hold a media conference in Beijing about the outbreak at 3pm local time today.

Updated at 2.18am GMT

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