A market trader in Wales has accused fellow stallholders of bigotry after she was told to leave her stall because of fears she might have coronavirus.
Su Chu Lu, 54, returned to the historic indoor market in Aberystwyth, west Wales, after travelling to Taiwan – hundreds of miles from the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan – only for traders to tell her she was “putting them all at risk”.
It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals, or possibly seafood. New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are examples.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals.
The virus causes 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 are known to have been already in poor health.
Human to human transmission has been confirmed by China’s national health commission. As of 3 February, 361 people have died in China, and one in the Philippines. Confirmed infections in China are 17,238, and the official Chinese figures include Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Outside of China, infections stand at more than 150.
Two members of one family have been confirmed to have the virus in the UK, after more than 160 were tested and found negative. The actual number to have contracted the virus could be far higher as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected. Modelling by World Health Organization (WHO) experts at Imperial College London suggests there could be as many as 100,000 cases, with uncertainty putting the margins between 30,000 and 200,000.
There were fears that the coronavirus might spread more widely during the week-long lunar new year holidays, which start on 24 January, when millions of Chinese travel home to celebrate, but the festivities have largely been cancelled and Wuhan and other Chinese cities are in lockdown.
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 there is generally no need to visit a doctor for a cough unless it is persistent or you are having other symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing or you feel very unwell.
No. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. It increases the likelihood that the World Health Organization will declare the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday evening. The key concerns are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital.
Su, who has been running her stall for 15 years, said some traders held a meeting to ban her from reopening the shop in Aberystwyth Market Hall.
“When I arrived at the hall and got to my own stall the man who works opposite mine immediately asked me to leave the building,” said Su. “He stressed that every member of the hall all think I must leave the building otherwise he will contact the council to force me out.” She said another trader next to him supported his demand.
“I was really upset, it was very emotional and upsetting, and I’m angry,” said Su. “There are so many cases of the virus in the rest of this world, so why did this trader target me? I have no doubt it is because of my nationality, because of my skin colour. That’s what makes me deeply unhappy about this.”
“I think they assume I have gone to China but I didn’t go, and they still didn’t believe me. I don’t know if they believe me now.”
She said she was willing to forgive them as she just wanted an end to the issue.
The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.
The UN agency advises people to:
Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.
Other traders have rallied round to back her by putting posters up on their stalls saying: “I support Su Chu Lu.”
David Gilbert, a jeweller, said: “I immediately gave Su Chu Lu my continued support. This has been caused by a minority in the market hall.”
But another trader, who asked not to be named, said: “If she had been to London or France and there had been an outbreak there it would have been the same. It’s not something we’re all involved in, and I don’t think it was handled the best way but [it was] not ever intended to be racial.”
The government’s advice is for anyone returning from Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, to stay indoors. Anyone travelling from elsewhere in China is advised to stay indoors only if they are showing symptoms.
Taiwan has 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus, compared with two in the UK. In Hubei, there have been more than 13,000 infections and more than 400 deaths.