coronavirus china 2020

UN News/Jing Zhang
People wear face masks in the waiting area at China’s Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport.

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Rosamond Hutt, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Wenzhou, more than 800km from the coronavirus epicentre in Wuhan, is the latest Chinese city to go into lockdown.
  • Some countries are denying entry to foreign visitors who have been in China recently.
  • Neighbouring nations are closing off borders with China or restricting travel to and from the country.

The novel coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has spread to two dozen countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the epidemic a global health emergency, amid growing concerns about “sustained human-to-human transmission”.

Expert opinions differ over how contagious the new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is, but the WHO estimates each sick person will go on to infect, on average, between 1.4 and 2.5 people.

Based on current WHO estimated as of 23 Jan 2020.
How contagious is the new virus?
Image: Statista

The Chinese government has confirmed more than 20,000 cases – and more than 420 deaths from the virus (as of February 4).

The Philippines is the first country outside China to report a death from the virus, while a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong has also died.

As new cases continue to be reported around the world, here’s a glimpse of the measures some countries have been taking in an effort to contain the outbreak.

Cities in lockdown

As the Lunar New Year travel season began, major cities across China cancelled their celebrations. Wuhan, which is home to more than 11 million people, went into lockdown, with buses, trains and flights out of the city cancelled.

The Chinese government later expanded the restrictions in Wuhan to other cities in Hubei province, creating a huge quarantine zone of around 50 million people.

Wenzhou, a port city in the eastern Zhejiang province more than 800km by road from Wuhan, is also under lockdown. Though far from the epicentre of the virus, the province has the highest number of confirmed cases outside Hubei.

Closing borders

Neighbouring countries are restricting travel to and from China, or closing off their borders with China.

Russia, which reported its first cases of coronavirus in recent days, has closed its 4,200km border with China, its biggest trade partner. It has also restricted flights and stopped issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals.

As well as sealing its border, Mongolia has suspended classes at universities until 2 March to prevent contagion.

Macau, the world’s most densely populated region and largest gambling hub, which borders Hong Kong, has closed its casinos for two weeks.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced new measures to restrict the movement of people from mainland China, but stopped short of fully closing off the city. Medical workers went on strike to demand a full closure.

The United States has declared a public health emergency, although it says the risk to Americans is low.

Restrictions on travel

The WHO does not recommend restrictions on trade and travel to stem the spread of the virus. But countries around the world, including the US, Australia, the Philippines, Japan and Israel, have imposed stringent restrictions on travellers who have been in China recently, and have also warned their citizens against travelling there.

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship carrying around 3,700 off Yokohama city, after a case of coronavirus was found on board.

The US is temporarily denying entry to all foreign nationals who have visited China in the past 14 days. US citizens, permanent residents and their close relatives returning from Hubei province will be quarantined for 14 days, which is the longest incubation period for the virus.

Australia is taking similar stringent measures, temporarily banning entry to anyone travelling from or transiting through mainland China from 1 February – with the exception of Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members, as well as air crews who have taken steps to protect themselves from infection.

Australian citizens and residents returning from China have been told to self-isolate for 14 days. The government also upgraded its travel warning to level 4, recommending that no Australian travel to mainland China.

The Philippines has announced a temporary entry ban on most travellers who have been to China recently.

Major airports have introduced a raft of preventative measures from screening passengers for symptoms to disinfection of planes and terminals. But a growing list of airlines are suspending or drastically scaling back flights to China.

Almost 10,000 flights were cancelled between the outbreak of coronavirus and 31 January, according to travel research company Cirium.

Evacuation and quarantine

Australia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Thailand, the UK and the US are among countries evacuating their nationals trapped by the outbreak in Hubei and quarantining them.

The Australian government is flying citizens to Christmas Island, more than 3,000km from the mainland, and quarantining them in an immigration detention centre for 14 days.

Indonesia is housing evacuees at a military facility on the northern Natuna Besar island, which has a hospital.

The UK, which has withdrawn non-essential staff from embassies and consulates in China, is monitoring its evacuees for 14 days in apartment blocks normally used to house nurses.