As the Chinese coronavirus spreads rapidly around the globe, governments worldwide are making a show of doing something. But are their measures effective, or just exercises in population control?

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization may declare an international public health emergency. Whether or not they do this will greatly affect the response of both the Chinese government and others in dealing with the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV virus that has already infected hundreds and killed nine.

Person-to-person transmission

Prior to Monday, the only known cases of the virus were all from people who had been in Wuhan — suggesting they all caught it at the illegal wildlife market thought to be ground zero for the plague. As the virus has an animal origin, it was hoped at first that it could only jump from the animal source to humans.

But now we know the virus can be transmitted from person to person, things look much bleaker. In the last few days the virus has spread to Taiwan, and there has been one confirmed case in Seattle, USA. Screening efforts are to be stepped up by Australia, Russia and the UK for passengers arriving from Wuhan. One man in Australia has been quarantined.

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The airport checks so far seem to be simple temperature tests, as one of the symptoms of the virus is fever. This is hardly a sure-fire way of stopping a single microscopic particle from entering a country. If governments were really serious, surely they would be cancelling flights from Wuhan’s international airport by now. But perhaps they are waiting for the Chinese to act first, so as not to be seen as hauling up the lifeboats.

Martial law coming to Wuhan?

China’s National Health Commission Vice-Minister Li Bin has told people not to enter or exit the city of Wuhan, but this means little unless it is enforced. Reportage from Wuhan itself has been scarce, so it is difficult to gauge the mood on the ground there. Are people panicking and trying to leave? So far there have been no reports to that effect, or of military intervention in Wuhan. But the Chinese government will be considering all options as they seek to control the situation. (RT)