The dominant story in Asia this week continues to be the spread of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday morning, the number of confirmed infections in China has risen to 42,638, while the death toll now exceeds 1,000 — greater than the total number of fatalities caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
The epicenter of the coronavirus is Wuhan, an industrial city in central China’s Hubei Province. Since January 23, Wuhan’s population of some 11 million has been under quarantine and life in the city has largely come to a standstill: schools and businesses closed, streets empty, residents stuck indoors.
In the latest episode of Asia In-Depth, listeners can hear what life is like at the epicenter. ChinaFile editor Susan Jakes interviewed Muyi Xiao, a Wuhan native and ChinaFile’s visuals editor, whose Twitter account has become a platform for insight into the situation. Xiao and Jakes — who covered SARS as a Beijing-based reporter for Time magazine in 2003 — discussed how the crisis is playing out in Wuhan and assessed whether it will impact popular support for the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “with 99% of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world.” And President Xi Jinping, who has been criticized for being aloof during the crisis, made a public appearance in Beijing.
China’s coronavirus outbreak poses a “very grave threat for the rest of the world”, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday in an appeal for sharing virus samples and speeding up research into drugs and vaccines. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was addressing the start of a two-day meeting aimed at accelerating research into drugs, diagnostics and vaccines into the flu-like virus amid growing concerns about its ability to spread.