Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.
China is scrambling to contain the spread of a new and deadly viral outbreak as hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens plan to travel for the busy Lunar New Year holiday this weekend. Residents in the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, are being urged not to leave, and authorities will shut down public transportation networks and suspend outbound flights in the city starting Thursday. A total of 540 cases of the disease have been confirmed around the world; it has killed at least 17 people in China so far. With the death toll expected to keep rising, the Chinese government is facing criticism for being too slow to acknowledge the severity of the health crisis.
The World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the outbreak, but it stopped short of declaring a “public health emergency of international concern,” a formal step that would be followed by recommendations to individual countries on how to combat the coronavirus. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the issue an “evolving and complex situation,” and said consultations would continue Thursday.