The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to declare a public health emergency of international concern after a ninth person died from Wuhan coronavirus.

So-far Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the US have all reported cases of the virus, while more than 440 people are believed to be infected in China, where the outbreak started.

Increased precautions are being taken this week as millions travel ahead of Chinese New Year this weekend. This would be the fifth emergency declaration by the WHO, with the first warning related to a swine flu outbreak in 2014 which killed more than 200,000 people.

High numbers of polio cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan caused an emergency in May 2014, while later that year another declaration was issued over the Ebola outbreak.

The last incident declared an emergency was the Zika virus in 2016. The Wuhan coronavirus has been named after the city in China where the first case was reported, in the province of Hubei.

Body scans taking place at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia

Chinese health authorities are now urging people from the area to avoid crowds and public gatherings to prevent the virus from spreading further. All the patients who have died from the disease had been from Hubei. Deputy director of the National Health Commission Li Bin confirmed this week that the virus had been transmitted from ‘human to human’, with medical workers among the infected.

She said at a press conference: ‘Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation.’ North Korea is one of the few countries who have suspended travel into the country, but have reported no cases of the virus.

The nation previously closed its borders in 2003 during the SARS scare. Other countries, including Indonesia and Japan, have stepped up screening measures for travellers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan. However, residents in the city say they are not overly concerned about the risk, despite face masks selling out in pharmacies across the area. Yang Bin, 56, said of the threat: ‘As an adult, I am not too worried about the disease. I think we are more worried about our kids. It would be unacceptable to the parents if they got sick.’


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