Almost 2,000 cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed since an outbreak began last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be nearly as deadly or contagious.
WHAT’S NEW TODAY
___ The National Health Commission said the number of confirmed cases in China rose to nearly 2,000 and the death toll, to 56.
___ The U.S. reported five cases as of Sunday, including two in California and one in Arizona. All had traveled to Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak.
___ Singapore and South Korea each reported one new case Sunday, while Thailand reported three new cases.
___ The U.S. said it was chartering a plane to fly out its consulate staff and some civilians from the city. France said it was preparing a similar evacuation, possibly by bus. Japan said it too was arranging an evacuation flight.
___ China’s health minister said the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
___Chinese authorities announced a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals, saying they will “severely investigate and punish” violators.
___ Beijing said it would delay the start of classes after the Lunar New Year holiday ends later this week.
___ Two of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they were closing for the time being.
___The International Tennis Federation has moved a regional Fed Cup qualifying event out of China amid travel restrictions caused by the outbreak. The Asian Football Confederation moved an Olympic qualifying event from China to Australia.