The latest figures of the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, show 5,974confirmed cases132 people have died so far as a result of infection, and there are almost 7,000 suspected cases with 48,000 people carefully monitored for symptoms. In recent days China has seen a significant jump with the number of deaths increasing by 26 to 132almost all in the province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan.This trend is likely to continue in the short term.
There is an evident spread of the virus to the European continent, with Germany claiming the first confirmed case on the mainland. The German citizen had no history of travel to China but was in contact with a Chinese colleague in Germany. Nearly 60 cases have been reported in 15 other countries, including the United States, France and Singapore.
As of Tuesday morning, preparations have begun to evacuate Irish citizens trapped at the epicentre of the outbreak. An estimated eight Irish citizens are living in the affected region which has been put on lockdown since the Chinese authorities imposed severe transport restrictions to attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Irish Times that the Embassy “is in contact with Irish citizens in Hubei province regarding their intentions”. The Department of Foreign Affairs did claim to be exploring options for assisting Irish citizens to leave Hubei province “if required”, which was to include “commercial options”. However, this would mean Irish citizens leaving their Chinese partners behind as well as facing another period under quarantine once being removed from this area.
There is further concern among the Chinese community in Ireland about the presence of a tour party from the Hubei province in Dublin this weekend before travel restrictions were imposed. While there is no evidence that this group posed any health threat, its presence prompted criticism on Chinese social media, including warnings to the community in Ireland.
This criticism is magnified in the affected Chinese region itself, with residents angry that they were not informed earlier about the risk posed by the outbreak, which is thought to have begun in December. On Monday, the mayor of Wuhan acknowledged such criticism of his handling of the crisis and offered to resign. However, it is worth questioning how much aid the resignation of the Wuhan mayor would assist at this point, given the advanced stage of an increasingly urgent health crisis which is becoming globalised.
Photo by Fred Murphy
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