On Wednesday, Wuhan's health commission announced that the death toll from the coronavirus had almost doubled since the day before.
China's National Health Commission announced the youngest victim to date was 48 and the eldest 89.
The central Chinese city of 14 million has suspended all air and ground transportation in a bid to contain the new coronavirus that has killed 17 people and infected hundreds of others, according to an official announcement Thursday. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said 288 flights had been canceled as of 11:30am. "But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one".
"Even if (cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us", the WHO's Galea said, adding, however, that the number of those infected is not an indicator of the outbreak's severity, so long as the mortality rate remains low.
He said last time he went out, surgical masks were selling for a higher-than-normal price of 50 RMB ($7).
World Health Organization defines a global emergency as an "extraordinary event" that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated worldwide response.
Zoonoses are diseases or infections that transmit from animals to humans.
Chinese health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and overseas during week-long holidays for the Chinese New Year, which begins today.
Experts have questioned whether such a move will actually help with the public health response. Bats were also the ultimate source of SARS, scientists believe.
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The outbreak has put other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year. They attributed the spike in new cases to improvements in detection and monitoring.
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Travel closures were also imposed on roads, rail or public transport in three other nearby cities.
Foxconn asked those employees not to attend a Thursday year-end party in Taipei and to stay home for the holidays, although it said no Wuhan-based employees had shown any signs of health problems. "Mass quarantines are typically considered not very effective". These steps include suspending school and mass gatherings, and possibly public transit as well.
"What we're seeing here with Wuhan and the two other cities appears more than social distancing", Phelan said. "It's a bit like a sledgehammer". Tedros said that while WHO's role is to provide science-based recommendations, "at the end of the day, a sovereign country has the autonomy to do what it thinks is right".
People walk past a billboard announcing the closure of the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province on January 23, 2020.
It is understood that the man travelled from Wuhan at the weekend.
Most of the cases were of workers, handlers or frequent visitors to one food market in Wuhan city, the Huanan South China Seafood Market. They are still trying to determine whether spread among people is limited or whether it might be spreading in a sustained manner, meaning it easily passes from one person to the next and then onward. Seventeen people have died, all in China.
The authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of the new coronavirus outbreak, are planning to build a new hospital in six days to receive patients affected by the virus, media reported on Thursday. The PHEIC designation (pronounced "fake") was created following an update to the International Health Regulations after that outbreak. Previous global emergencies have been declared for the emergence of Zika virus in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic, and polio.
The decision n ot to declare a global emergency "should not be taken as a sign that World Health Organization does not think the situation is serious or that we're not taking it seriously".
Helen Branswell contributed reporting.