The United States government is working to evacuate American citizens out of the Chinese city of Wuhan as China has now quarantined 40 million people and is warning that the nation is in a “grave situation” by the “accelerating” spread of the virus.
“The operation comes as the death toll from a newly identified coronavirus that originated in Wuhan climbs above 40 and the number of confirmed infections tops 1,300, with many of the cases in and around the central Chinese city of 11 million people,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Roughly 1,000 American citizens are thought to be in Wuhan, and the U.S. consulate there is reaching out to those it knows about to offer a seat on the plane [which] … seats around 230 people.”
Bloomberg News reported that the quarantine area has expanded from 11 million people to 40 million people which is arguably the largest quarantine in history.
Eric Toner, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Business Insider that he was not surprised by the rapid spread of the virus, and that just a few months ago he created a simulation model that mapped out what would happen if a coronavirus reached a pandemic scale.
“Toner’s simulation of a hypothetical deadly coronavirus pandemic suggested that after six months, nearly every country in the world would have cases of the virus,” Business Insider reported. “Within 18 months, 65 million people could die.”
The most severe pandemic to occur in modern history was the Influenza of 1918, also known as the Spanish Flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported:
The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.
The rapidly spreading virus has led the Chinese government to spearhead a highly ambitious project of building a 269,000 square foot hospital in six days that is capable of holding 1,000 infected patients.
“It’s basically a quarantined hospital where they send people with infectious diseases so it has the safety and protective gear in place,” Joan Kaufman, lecturer in global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, told BBC.
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told BBC: “China has a record of getting things done fast even for monumental projects like this. This authoritarian country relies on this top down mobilization approach. They can overcome bureaucratic nature and financial constraints and are able to mobilize all of the resources. The engineering work is what China is good at. They have records of building skyscrapers at speed. This is very hard for westerners to imagine. It can be done.”