Enlarge/ WUHAN, Feb. 5, 2020 — Patients infected with the novel coronavirus are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Feb. 5, 2020. The first makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in China’s epidemic-hit Wuhan city began accepting patients Wednesday. The hospital can provide about 1,600 beds to infected patients.
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Chinese authorities in Wuhan Thursday said that they will conduct door-to-door home searches for people potentially infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and corral the sick into massive, makeshift quarantine camps around the city, according to a report in the New York Times.
These latest extreme outbreak control measures are on top of already draconian travel restrictions and shutdowns of public transit, which have effectively isolated Wuhana city of 11 million where the explosive outbreak beganas well as other highly populated cities in the Hubei province. Overall, the lockdown has made it difficult to get food and supplies to Hubeis 50 million residents, contributing to a humanitarian crisis that is now swelling from Wuhan in the wake of the virus.The desperate situation in Wuhan is clear from the latest outbreak figures.  Of the 31,530 reported cases of 2019-nCoV in over two dozen countries, 22,112 are confirmed in the Hubei province alone. And of the 638 deaths logged so far in the outbreak, 618 have occurred in the province.
Overall, the Times notes that crude estimates* of the outbreaks fatality rates are a striking four percent in Wuhan, and 2.8 percent for the whole of the Hubei province. For the rest of China and beyond, the fatality rate estimate is around 0.2 percent. (*These are crude estimates of the rates because they are calculated by fatalities over cases, not fatalities over the sum of recovered and fatal cases.)
Reports from Wuhan suggest that medical staff are running short of personal protective equipment, medicines, and supplies to test patients for the 2019-nCoV. According to the Times, many Wuhan residents who have respiratory symptoms have been forced to go from hospital to hospital, on foot, to try to get tested. Many are turned away, untested and untreated.
Moreover, experts fear that penning potentially infected people in large quarantine campsset up in a sports stadium, an exhibition center, and a building complexwith minimal medical care could make the sick sicker and let the whole gamut of infectious diseases run rampant among the confined people.
Still, Chinese authorities seemed resolute to take whatever extreme actions they see as useful to get a grip on the outbreak. Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who visited Wuhan Thursday and announced the new control measures, said that the city and country face wartime conditions.There must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever, she added.
The harsh measures come along with the saddening news that a local doctor in Wuhan, Li Wenliangwho became a hero figure for being among the first to raise alarm about the new vial illness only to be reprimanded by authoritiesdied Friday, local time. He had been hospitalized with a 2019-nCoV infection at the time of his death. China said Friday that it has launched an investigation into issues related to his death. Li was 34. Most patients who have died of the infection tend to be older and/or have underlying health conditions.
China isnt the only country toying with quarantines and travel restrictionswhich experts say are unlikely to be effective.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Japan and carrying over 3,700 people, is under a 14-day quarantine ending February 19 after a former passenger tested positive for the virus Hong Kong February 1. Since then, 61 other people aboard have tested positive, up from just 20 on Thursday. While Japanese health officials are not allowing passengers to leave the ship, many noted that in the days before the quarantine, passengers were getting off and back on the ship at planned stopsopening the potential that infected passengers could have infected people at those locationsand some did not get back on the ship and traveled onward, potentially carrying the infection to new, international destinations.
Likewise, experts say the travel restrictions and quarantines issued by the Trump Administration last week are equally unlikely to be effective. The restrictions include barring entry to the US to noncitizens who have recently traveled to China. But as the outbreak rages and spreads, international travelers may have exposure risks, regardless  of whether or not they have recently traveled to China.All of the evidence we have indicates that travel restrictions and quarantines directed at individual countries are unlikely to keep the virus out of our borders, Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo told lawmakers February 5 in a House foreign affairs committee hearing. Dr. Nuzzo is an associate Professor and senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. She also noted what many experts have saidthat is, that travel bans from certain places can stigmatize certain countries and may deter other countries from reporting when theyve detected cases.
Overall, she said, “these measures may exacerbate the epidemics social and economic tolls and can make us less safe.”