Last updated: 20th February
It is important to distinguish between a) the actual virus and b) the precautions being taken to prevent the virus from spreading.
Let’s look at the actual virus first. The vast majority of cases, 82% of all cases, are within Hubei province (Wuhan and nearby cities). Outside of Wuhan the numbers are very small indeed:
Shanghai: 333 cases out of 21 million people – 2 deaths
Fujian province: 293 cases out of 38 million people – 1 death
Shandong province: 546 cases out of 90 million people – 4 deaths
Zhejiang province: 1175 cases out of 57 million people – zero deaths
Guangdong province: 1332 people out of 113 million – 1 death
Of the reported cases, 79% are mild (cough and fever) with patients recovering fully (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-cases/).
Now let’s look at the precautions being taken by cities across China, these are quite extreme, and rightly so, as they are an effective way to prevent further spread of the virus. Schools have been teaching online and plan to delay their in-class lessons until early March. People are wearing masks everywhere, having their temperatures checked and being encouraged to stay at home. In some cities there are limits on how many times you can leave the apartment in a week, again to help prevent the spread. As you can imagine, these measures have really gone a long way to prevent further spread. The number of new cases in China have now been falling every day since 12th February (apart from on 16th Feb). (source)
Updates on the Coronavirus from Schools in China
We have been speaking with schools and teachers all over China recently and getting updates on the situation in various cities. Schools in many parts of China, even areas with no or very few cases, will remain closed until sometime between 17th February and 1st March, to help limit the spread of the virus. A number of schools we have been speaking to have started teaching online instead of in the classroom for a couple of weeks.
Here are some comments from a selection of schools across China:
“The Beijing government has postponed schools, universities, and other educational institutions from opening indefinitely. As such, we have gone on break and are asking our teachers to ‘self-quarantine.’ Many people in China are doing the same thing with the idea that by avoiding wandering around the city for at least 14 days, you’ll be waiting out the virus’s incubation period and break the chain of transmission.
Two excellent sources of information about this are the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention. Please take a bit of time to look through these as they are both pretty comprehensive sources of information. One more very frequently updated source is this article from a local website called the Beijinger. They have done an outstanding job of taking statistics from Chinese language sources and making them available for those who can’t read Chinese.”
School in Beijing
“As mentioned before the atmosphere in Tianjin is very positive and the confirmed infections are very low when compared to other cities of a comparable size. Heping district, the center of Tianjin and most populace area has no confirmed cases from the latest information I have 11/02/2020. Apartment buildings are managing quarantine of the area, requiring temperature checks to enter. Grocery stores and deliveries are working as normal.”
School in Tianjin
“Our plan is to re-open schools the first week on March. Currently there are online classes going on. Teachers will go back to certain schools the 19th to help with the online classes, and do training.”
School in Shanghai
“Hangzhou’s situation is getting much better, the citizens can use the health code (which shows you are healthy) to travel in the city. The public transport is working as normal now. Certain companies and organizations have returned back to work since Feb 9th. We informed February arrivals to delay their arrival date and suggested them arrive in beginning of March. We are planning to offer staff training in March.”
School in Hangzhou
“Until very recently, we have been informed that our schools in Shenzhen will not physically re-start by the end of February. Before that, all Chinese students will be able to attend classes online or study via television as schools postpone the start date of the new semester. Shenzhen in particular is taking the situation very seriously with cleaning crews sanitizing public transport and spaces multiple times a day. All public transport is still operating normally as are many markets and shopping centers.”
School in Shenzhen
“Our school would also like to advise new teachers to try not to panic at this stage. There has been lots of misinformation spread so far about the Coronavirus (see link) and it is important to note that within Sichuan Province there are just 520 cases out of a population of 81 million people. Those who have been worst affected have been the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
In regards to your Visa, our school’s advice is to continue to prepare your Visa application. Those of you who have already received Work Permit Notices should apply for the ‘Z’ Work Visa. When the ‘Z’ Work Visa is approved, you have up to three months to enter China from the date of issue, so as soon as Government advice changes for the better you can enter China.”
School in Chengdu
Schools are also taking steps to ensure the entire school and classrooms are kept disinfected to ensure the prevention of the spread of any viruses:
What is Wuhan coronavirus?
The Wuhan coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has mainly affect the city of Wuhan, in central China, with 82% of all cases occurring in Wuhan and the surrounding cities of Hubei province . The virus causes flu symptoms, and those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. Wuhan and some surrounding cities have been quarantined with people being told to stay at home, in an effort to prevent it being spread.
Outside of Wuhan, the numbers are very small relative to the tens of millions of people living in each Chinese province, with between 18 and 1332 cases in each Chinese province. Here is a map of cases complied by Johns Hopkins with data from the World Health Organisation and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
There have been 2,128 deaths, 2,029 of which have been in the Wuhan region (Hubei province) and the majority have been elderly people, with pre-existing health problems and a weak immune system. People under 60 who are healthy are like to have less severe symptoms and to make a full recovery.
Of all reported cases, according to the WHO:
79% reported as ‘mild’ (cough, fever)
17% reported as ‘severe’
4%reported as ‘critical’
The recovery rate has been rising, over 16,000 people now, and as the virus runs its course, the recovery rate is expected to continue rising over the coming weeks.
In cities in China, people are taking precautions to limit the spread by:
– wearing masks in crowded places
– washing hands regularly
– avoiding touching face before washing hands
– avoiding close contact with anyone that has flu-like symptoms
The number of new cases in China has been falling every day since 12th February (apart from on 16th Feb). (source)
The media have been making things seem a lot more scary than the situation is. To put things in perspective, these are the figures for regular flu:
“Influenza has already sickened at least 13 million Americans this winter, hospitalizing 120,000 and killing 6,600, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And flu season hasn’t even peaked. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 61,000 Americans.
Worldwide, the flu causes up to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide and kills up to 650,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization.”
WHO Travel Advice
When in airports and planes to China it is advised to wear a face mask and keep your hands sanitized to be on the safe side. The World Health Organization has “advises against the application of any restrictions of international traffic based on the information currently available on this event.” (source).
Some airlines have temporarily limited or cancelled flights to cities in China. We will keep updated with the airline policies over the coming days and weeks. It is still possible to fly to an Asian country near China, such as Hong Kong, Singapore or South Korea and then to fly on to China.
4th Feb: “WHO chief says widespread travel bans not needed to beat virus.”
Hong Kong researchers have already developed a vaccine for the coronavirus, but will need time for testing.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna and the University of Queensland are working on a vaccine.
Bloomberg has also reported here that Thailand has had good results treating a Chinese man with two antiviral drugs. “The patient’s condition significantly improved within 48 hours after the medical team decided to use antiviral drugs originally used for HIV and influenza in his treatment”.
China has also been using HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir to treat the virus successfully:
“Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing who was infected by the virus after visiting Wuhan to inspect to coronavirus patients, told China News Week earlier this week that his doctor recommended he take the HIV drugs to fight the new virus and they worked on him.” (source)
Q&A by China’s National Immigration Administration concerning immigration/exit and entry during this period that we think might be helpful:
Q1: Are foreigners allowed entry or exit as usual during the period of epidemic prevention and control of the Wuhan novel coronavirus? Will the virus outbreak affect my work permit processing?
A1: The Chinese government has taken a series of active measures since the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus. Currently, all ports of entry and exit (with the exception of the lockdown of the exit and entry channels in Wuhan)are operating but with strict control – reduced cross border movements, reduced flights, and temperature screenings at all airports. Foreigners can enter or exit as usual with valid travel documents. Due to the virus outbreak, the government pushed the end of the Chinese New Year holiday from January 30 to February 09. However, the labor bureau and PSB, government authorities in charge of work permit processing, and issuance of residence permits respectively will be operating from February 03, 2020.
Q2: How do foreigners apply for visas or residence permits during this period?
A2: All exit-entry administration (EEA) authorities in China will be in full service for extension and issuance of visa and residence permits to ensure foreigners’ legitimate stay in China. Urgent services for emergencies will also be provided. EEA authorities will make arrangements for services on appointments to avoid risks involved with crowd gatherings during this period. Institutions that host high numbers of foreigners, such as universities, scientific research institutes, and business enterprises, will also be allowed additional agent services or provide other necessary conveniences depending on the situation.
Q3: What can foreigners do to cooperate during the epidemic prevention and control?
A3: EEA advises that all foreign ex-pats in China enhance self-protection, avoid crowded public places, and actively cooperate with local communities and inviting entities by taking part in precautionary measures. National Immigration Authorities at all levels are working closely with relevant departments to provide consultancy to foreigners, assist in disease screening and diagnosis with medical departments as well as dealing with other difficulties and problems encountered by foreigners during their stay in China.