Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, has infected more than 800 people since breaking out in China’s Hubei Province last December. An estimated 18 million people in China are now under quarantine and lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading.
But with the Chinese Lunar New Year on the weekend, some experts fear it will be impossible to contain the coronavirus.
The pathogen has already infected people from South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand, the US and nine people are being tested for infection in the UK.
Dr Joanna Wardęga from the Jagiellonian University in Poland told Onet.pl more than one billion people could travel across China in the coming days, rendering screening efforts ineffective.
The expert said: “The time of the Chinese New Year is a time of increased tourist travel, which will contribute to the further spread of the virus.”
How does the China virus spread?
Novel Coronavirus belongs to a zoonotic family of coronaviruses, meaning they can spread between animals and humans.
The virus most likely spreads through close contact with infected people, as well as through tiny droplets of bodily fluids when people sneeze or cough.
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When the outbreak was first confirmed in Wuhan, Hubei Province, the virus was traced to a busy seafood
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on January 23: “Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4 to 2.5 was presented.
“Amplification has occurred in one health care facility.
“Of confirmed cases, 25 percent are reported to be severe.
“The source is still unknown – most likely an animal reservoir – and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.”
Health officials have warned against consuming uncooked food and coming into contact with infected people.
The Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, January 25, and millions of people are expected to visit friends and family across the country.
Chinese officials have already stopped all travel routes going in and out of Wuhan and two nearby cities.
I don’t think that even detailed temperature screening for travellers will help much here
Dr Joanna Wardęga, Jagiellonian University
However, Dr Wardęga said it might not be enough to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
She said: “You can list three factors that make the place where the disease started unfortunate.
“Wuhan is a city with a population of 11 million, located in the centre of the most densely populated region of China.
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“At the same time, it is an important traffic crossroad where high-speeds rail lines intersect.
“And what is most important, this time of the year just before the Chinese New Year, forces the Chinese to travel en masse to their family homes to spend the holidays together.
“Last year, they made more than three billion trips, so it can be statistically assumed each of the approximately 1.4 billion Chinese went somewhere and returned.”
Despite Wuhan being cut off from the rest of the world, the expert said millions of people are still on the move.
Another issue to consider, Dr Wardęga argued, is the number of Chinese tourists flying around the globe each year.
She said: “I don’t think that even detailed temperature screening for travellers will help much here.
“Fortunately, scientists believe the virus is less dangerous than SARS or MERS.”
The coronavirus family was responsible for the 2002 to 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) pandemic.
Then in 2012, another strain of coronavirus was found responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
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