In Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s outbreak, all traffic lights in urban areas were turned red at 10:00, ceasing traffic for three minutes.
The Chinese government said the event was a chance to pay respects to “martyrs”, a reference to the 14 medical workers who died battling the virus.
They include Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who died of Covid-19 after being reprimanded by the authorities for attempting to warn others about the disease.
Wearing white flowers pinned to their chest, China’s President Xi Jinping and other government officials paid silent tribute in Beijing.
The commemorations coincide with the annual Qingming festival, when millions of Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors.
China first informed the WHO about cases of pneumonia with unknown causes on December 31, 2019.
By January 18, 2020, the confirmed number of cases had risen to around 60 – but experts estimated the real figure was closer to 1,700.
Just two days later, as millions of people prepared to travel for the lunar new year, the number of cases more than tripled to more than 200 and the virus was detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
From that point, the virus began to spread rapidly in Asia and then Europe, eventually reaching every corner of the globe.
However, in the past few weeks, China has started to ease travel and social-distancing restrictions, believing it has brought the health emergency under control.
Last week, Wuhan partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation.
On April 4, China reported 19 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, down from 31 a day earlier. China’s health commission said 18 of those cases involved travelers arriving from abroad.
As it battles to control cases coming from abroad, China temporarily banned all foreign visitors, even if they have visas or residence permits.
As the coronavirus crisis in China abates, the rest of the world remains firmly in the grip of the disease.
In a public statement on January 31, Health Secretary Alex Azar said US citizens returning from Hubei province would face 14 days of quarantine while those returning from other parts of China would be allowed to monitor their own condition for a similar period.
He told reporters: “Following the World Health Organization decision, I have today declared that the coronavirus represents a public health emergency in the United States.”
Citing the need to relieve pressure on authorities, Alex Azar said that foreign nationals who had travelled in China in the past two weeks would be denied entry to the US.
He added: “The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these, and our previous, actions we are working to keep the risk low.”
Another confirmed case in the US on January 31 – in California – brought the number there to seven. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said 191 people were under observation for the disease.
The US announcement came as other countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the new virus, 2019-nCov.
On January 31, the UK confirmed its first two cases.
Estimates by the University of Hong Kong suggest the true total number of cases could be far higher than official figures suggest. Based on mathematical models of the outbreak, experts there say more than 75,000 people may have been infected in the city of Wuhan alone, where the virus first emerged.
Most cases outside China involve people who have been to Wuhan. Germany, Japan, Vietnam, the US, Thailand and South Korea have reported person-to-person cases – patients being infected by people who had travelled to China.
Meanwhile in Wuhan, voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals are under way.
Australia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and the UK are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.
The spread of the deadly coronavirus is accelerating, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned, after holding a special government meeting on the Lunar New Year public holiday.
China is facing a “grave situation” President Xi told senior officials.
The new virus has killed at least 56 people and infected almost 2,000 since its discovery in the city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, the US has announced that staff at the Wuhan consulate will be evacuated on a special flight on January 28.
According to the State Department, private Americans most at risk will also be able to board the flight to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, UK-based researchers have warned of a real possibility that China will not be able to contain the virus.
Travel restrictions have come in place in several affected cities. From January 26, private vehicles will be banned from central districts of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak.
According to Chinese state newspaper the People’s Daily, a second emergency hospital is to be built there within weeks to handle 1,300 new patients, and will be finished in half a month. It is the second such rapid construction project: work on another 1,000-bed hospital has already begun.
Specialist military medical teams have also been flown into Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
The urgency reflects concern both within China and elsewhere about the virus which first appeared in December.
Lunar New Year celebrations for the year of the rat, which began on January 25, have been canceled in many Chinese cities.
Across mainland China, travelers are having their temperatures checked for signs of fever, and train stations have been shut in several cities.
Hong Kong has declared the highest level of emergency and school holidays were extended.
Several other nations are each dealing with a handful of cases, with patients being treated in isolation.
A coronavirus is a family of viruses which include the common cold.
However, this virus has never been seen before. It is called 2019-nCov, for “novel coronavirus”.
New viruses can become common in humans after jumping across the species barrier from animals.
The SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] outbreak of 2003 started in bats and transferred to the civet cat which passed it on to humans.
This new Chinese virus also causes severe acute respiratory infection.
Symptoms seem to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, lead to shortness of breath and some patients needing hospital treatment.
There is no specific cure or vaccine.
Based on early information, it is believed that only a quarter of infected cases are “severe”, and the dead are mostly – though not exclusively – older people, some of whom have pre-existing conditions.
The Chinese authorities suspect a seafood market that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals” was the source of the outbreak.