Opinion and Editorial

The quandary of quarantine: 5m left before lockdown

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)
Filed on January 28, 2020 | Last updated on January 28, 2020 at 06.18 am


China has imposed an unprecedented lockdown across 15 of its cities with nearly 60 million people affected by travel restrictions.

When China sneezes, the world catches a cold, they say. And China is down with a viral infection. It's a nightmare that's affecting the most populous country on earth, and now threatens to quickly spread across the world. The death toll from the novel coronavirus strain that originated in Wuhan, the capital of Central China's Hubei province, stands at 81, with 2,900 confirmed cases thus far. China has imposed an unprecedented lockdown across 15 of its cities with nearly 60 million people affected by travel restrictions. Unfortunately, that still may be a case of too little, too late.

Scientists believe the nCov may have originated in cross-species transmission of the pathogen from bats or snakes - or, in a potential laboratory leak in Wuhan. Either way, the good news is that 59 confirmed cases have recovered from the virus. But good news is in short supply. According to the live dashboard of global 2019-nCov cases created by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Systems Science and Engineering, there have been four deaths outside the Hubei province, with confirmed cases in 15 other countries beside China. Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, has acknowledged that there were lapses in the initial handling of the crisis, and that information wasn't shared as swiftly as it should have been. "We haven't disclosed information in a timely manner and also did not use effective information to improve our work," he told state broadcaster CCTV.

That may be an understatement. Apparently, the Saturday before the lockdown was initiated, the authorities hosted a potluck banquet attended by more than 40,000 families. China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei confirmed on Sunday that the virus, which is capable of human to human transmission, may not manifest itself for up to 14 days. Which means that millions who left the region up to two weeks before the lockdown may still be harbouring the virus and not be sick. The lockdown came into force this Wednesday, but up to five million residents reportedly left Wuhan before the restrictions came into force. Is the cat - or rather the bat - out of the bag already?

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