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February 04, 2020 - Afternoon Update
Note: Beginning tomorrow, these updates will be published once per day.
According to the World Health Organization’s new
, the global case count is 20,647 in 25 countries, including 159 cases outside of China. WHO’s
February 4 situation report
assesses the risk as “high” at both the regional and global levels.
Belgium’s Health, Food Chain Safety, and Environment department
the country’s first case of 2019-nCoV ARD. The patient is a woman who recently returned as part of a group from Wuhan. None of the other travelers in the group tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The infected individual is hospitalized, but she is reportedly “show[ing] no signs of illness at the moment.” Belgium is the 24th country outside of China to import a case of the virus.
WHO STRATEGIC PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE PLAN
The WHO’s 2019 Novel Coronavirus
Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan
is now available. The document provides a formal situation assessment and highlights response strategies such as facilitating international coordination, scaling up country-level operations, and accelerating research necessary for responding to the ongoing epidemic. Recommendations are based on the best available understanding of the virus and its public health impacts. The plan will serve as a guide for the operational activities of national and international response organizations.
CHINA’S NATIONAL RESPONSE
On February 3, Chinese
President Xi Jinping chaired a special meeting of China’s Politburo Standing Committee
to address ongoing response activities. According to a
article posted by the Chinese government, the meeting addressed “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the response and called for “improve[ments to] the national emergency management system.” In particular, the Chinese officials noted the need to “crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade” as a means of mitigating the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. Additionally, President Xi acknowledged that government leaders must be accountable for implementing the appropriate response activities and policies and that regional and national coordination is necessary to combat the ongoing epidemic. President Xi also commented that government officials “who fail to perform their duties” could face negative consequences. Notably,
several Chinese officials were removed from office
in the midst of the SARS epidemic in 2003 as a result of challenges with the initial response.
MOBILE HIGH-LEVEL BIOSAFETY LAB
The China Centers for Disease Control has deployed a
mobile biosafety laboratory
to Wuhan City, Hubei Province to assist with the response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak. The exact capabilities and team composition are not described in the official announcement, but the mobile laboratory will be accompanied by laboratory and maintenance personnel as well as drivers. China
deployed mobile BSL-3 laboratories to Sierra Leone
during the West Africa Ebola epidemic, which provided diagnostic testing support for the response, including real-time quantitative PCR testing.
CONCERNS OF PPE SHORTAGES
China is home to many of the world’s largest manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks. The outbreak is raising
of an impending shortage of PPE, which could be in extremely high demand if the outbreak continues to spread. According to Chinese news sources, 20 million masks are being manufactured daily in China, and there have already been calls by Chinese government officials requesting international support to supplement domestic production capacity to meet the increased demand. In other news, the
WHO is deploying 3,500kg of personal protective equipment
to its Western Pacific Regional Office Strategic Regional Stockpile to ensure the protection of healthcare workers treating 2019-nCoV patients in countries across the Western Pacific. Currently, the US CDC is
the use of face masks by the general public; however, healthcare institutions are preparing for a potential shortage.
Hyundai announced that it is suspending production
factory operations in South Korea as a result of the 2019-nCoV epidemic, citing “disruptions in the supply of parts” originating in China. Several other car manufacturers have suspended production at factories in China, but this is the first instance of a factory shut-down in another country. The production pause
is expected to last at least one week
, but the exact duration is uncertain. While Hyundai operates production facilities in other countries, it is not clear if those other facilities can supplement the production lost in South Korea or if they will face similar supply disruptions. This announcement illustrates the types of downstream effects, beyond the direct health and economic impacts on affected cities and countries, that epidemics can produce.
CANADA REJECTS CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL BAN
Amidst many countries limiting or halting travel to and from China,
announced that it is electing not to implement travel bans. Canada’s decision aligns with recommendations by the WHO.