By AFP Staff
At an emergency meeting in China on Feb. 21, Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked at length about the urgency facing the country as the novel coronavirus, known as covid-19, continues to spread. That was no surprise considering the fact that, according to official figures from China, there have been nearly 80,000 cases and the death toll is fast approaching 3,000, though outside experts suspect China is downplaying the figures and they are significantly higher than that.
What was odd about the talk, though, was Jinping also discussed the need for bio-safety at laboratories around the country in order to “protect the people’s health” and safeguard “national security.”
Equally disturbing, according to reports, was the fact that, the next day, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology issued new protocols designed to prevent biological leaks from labs, titled: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”
China has a Level 4 microbiology lab called the National Biosafety Laboratory—and, of all places, it located at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, ground zero for the viral outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a biosafety lab that is level four holds high-risk microbes and pathogens that are deadly to humans.
Covid-19 has spread around the world, with hundreds of new cases popping up in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe as it continues to travel west. Italian health authorities, for example, announced that there have been 223 confirmed cases of covid-19 along with six deaths. The city of Qoms, Iran, has reported 50 deaths from the virus, which is strange considering that it is in the middle of the country. The latest figures for the United States are 35 confirmed cases with no deaths. A more comprehensive list of the cases and deaths can be found by clicking here.
UPDATE: Italy reports 38 new cases of coronavirus, raising total to 193 cases and 4 dead https://t.co/eUoE2b20hL
— BNO Newsroom (@BNODesk) February 24, 2020
On Feb. 24, Australian news reported, “The coronavirus containment has broken, with cases exploding across the world.”
The biggest concern right now for doctors and other health experts is that some people, who have caught the virus, do not show symptoms for weeks; others can be asymptomatic other than a running nose and slight fever. These people walk around public areas without knowing that they’re sick, spreading the virus to everyone they meet.
“Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the ‘window of opportunity’ to contain the disease was narrowing,” reported the Australian news agency. “But many epidemiologists fear that may have already passed. It’s in hospitals. It’s in prisons. It’s on cruise ships. It seems to be spread by carriers long before they show symptoms themselves. And that makes the virus almost impossible to contain.”