China is disinfecting and isolating used banknotes as part of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, officials have said.

Banks use ultraviolet light or high temperatures to disinfect yuan bills, then seal and store the cash for seven to 14 days – depending on the severity of the outbreak in a particular region – before recirculating them, China’s central bank said at a press conference.

The virus, which has infected more than 66,000 people in China and spread to more than two dozen other countries, has sparked a rush to disinfect public places and minimise contact between people.

What is the virus causing the illness that started Wuhan?

The virus is officially called Sars-CoV-2 and this causes the disease Covid-19. It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.

What other coronaviruses have there been?

New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are other examples – severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. 

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere. As of 12 February there are now 45,182 confirmed cases and 1,115 deaths. There are cases in 28 other countries outside China, with deaths recorded in one case in Hong Kong, and one case in the Philippines. The number of people to have contracted the virus overall could be far higher, as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has doubled from four to eight after four more people in Brighton were diagnosed with the infection over the weekend.

There are nine cases of the virus in the UK. Four were located in Brighton, one in London. At Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside 83 people in quarantine were told they would be allowed to leave on Thursday after they all tested negative. Of the 1,750 tests carried out so far in the UK, more than 99% had been negative.

Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?

We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2%. However, this is likely to be an overestimate since many more people are likely to have been infected by the virus but not suffered severe enough symptoms to attend hospital, and so have not been counted. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

Unless you have recently travelled to China or been in contact with someone infected with the virus, then you should treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. The NHS advises that people should call 111 instead of visiting the GP’s surgery as there is a risk they may infect others.

Is this a pandemic and should we panic?

Health experts are starting to say it could become a pandemic, but right now it falls short of what the WHO would consider to be one. A pandemic, in WHO terms, is “the worldwide spread of a disease”. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in about 25 countries outside China, but by no means in all 195 on the WHO’s list.

There is no need to panic. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. The WHO has declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern, and says there is a “window of opportunity” to halt the spread of the disease. The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital. Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact.

Sarah Boseley Health editor and Hannah Devlin 

Pharmacies across the country sold out of disinfectants and surgical masks in days after a lockdown was announced in late January on Wuhan, where the Covid-19 illness is believed to have emerged.

READ  Chinese embassy backs students tearing down ‘pro-Hong Kong protest’ banners in South Korea

Office buildings have installed packets of tissue in elevators that tenants are encouraged to use when pressing buttons, while ride-hailing company Didi exhorts drivers to disinfect their cars daily.

Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of China’s central bank, said on Saturday that banks had been urged to provide new banknotes to customers whenever possible.

The central bank made an “emergency issuance” of 4bn yuan in new notes to Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, before the recent Lunar New Year holiday, Fan added.

The measures are intended to “secure the public’s safety and health when using cash”, Fan said.

But it is unclear how wide an impact the central bank’s disinfection work will have, with increasing numbers of Chinese people preferring mobile payments over cash in recent years.

In 2017, nearly three-quarters of Chinese respondents told an Ipsos survey they could survive a whole month without using more than 100 yuan in cash.

According to the World Health Organization, Covid-19 can be spread through contaminated objects in addition to droplets and direct contact with infected patients.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here