SYDNEY, Australia — As someone who has been living between Hong Kong and Sydney for the past few months, I have been engaged in a relentless, entirely circular conversation with family, friends and colleagues about the coronavirus that sprang into the global consciousness a couple of weeks ago and since then has claimed at least 563 lives, while sickening more than 28,000 others.
For people in Hong Kong, where the government still hesitates to act without the blessing of Beijing, the risks of exposure are higher. Some friends recalled being in Hong Kong during the SARS crisis, as we speculated how long schools would remain closed and wondered if the city, which has already known so much tumult over the past nine months, would ever truly recover.
Many people we know did what we did: got out of Dodge, children in tow, to where the air was microbe-free and public transport devoid of the face mask parade. Others have to stay for work, for elderly relatives, or because they do not have the means to leave. There’s a run on everything from hand sanitizer to toilet paper, and most residents are urged to work from home, if they can.
The scale of the virus and its impact remains a guessing game. Will the number of sick people explode, now that the Lunar New Year celebrations are over and everyone is back at work? Will Hong Kong finally close all its border checkpoints with China, as so many people are demanding?
Some public health nurses have vowed to remain on strike until that happens. Will more airlines equate the threat from Hong Kong with that from China, and ban all flights?
The Coronavirus Outbreak
What do you need to know? Start here.
Updated Feb. 5, 2020
What is a Coronavirus, and how dangerous is it?
Read up on the respiratory virus, including its symptoms and how it is transmitted.
How bad could the outbreak be?
Here are the six key factors that will determine whether it can be contained.
Where has the virus spread?
You can track its movementwith this map.
How is the United States being affected?
There have been at least a dozen cases. American citizens and permanent residents who fly to the United States from China are now subject to a two-week quarantine.
What if I’m traveling?
Several countries, including the United States, have discouraged travel to China, and several airlines have canceled flights.Many travelers have been left in limbo while looking to change or cancel bookings.
How do I keep myself and others safe?
Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do.
- What is a Coronavirus, and how dangerous is it?
On Thursday, Virgin Australia announced an end to its Hong Kong flights. United and American Airlines have already said they would suspend service to the city, as have Italian and Philippine carriers.
It’s one thing to be able to engage in this guessing game from the safety of another country, even as Australia registers its 14th coronavirus patient and Australian citizens are airlifted from Wuhan, China, into quarantine on Christmas Island, more than 1,500 kilometers off the Australian coast.
It’s another thing entirely to be stuck in Wuhan itself, the epicenter of the outbreak, where there is no recourse and no escape. My colleagues on the ground have reported on a city of 11 million that’s become a ghost town, and a new series we’re producing called Inside the Outbreak looks at individuals coping with the crisis.
As we watch the outbreak from afar, and see how far the virus travels, I acknowledge the privilege I have of being able to do so in relative safety. Millions of people do not have that choice.
If you’re directly affected by the virus, in Australia or elsewhere, we want to hear from you: Email us at [email protected].
Now here are our stories of the week from the region and the world.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia’s Volunteer Firefighters Are Heroes. But Are They Enough? The country relies heavily on civilians to contain its fires, but the monstrous blazes that come with climate change threaten to break the system.
There’s No Place Like Kangaroo Island. Can It Survive Australia’s Fires? It was a wildlife haven, a tourist magnet and an agricultural center — before half of it burned.
Can the World’s Strangest Mammal Survive? The platypus is imperiled by habitat loss, predation by feral cats, and now drought and wildfires wrought by climate change.
The Australian Open’s Icy Embrace of Margaret Court The 24-time Grand Slam winner has alienated many in tennis, and beyond, with her homophobic comments.
Novak Djokovic Wins Australian Open, Tightens Grand Slam Race The victory over Dominic Thiem in five sets gave Djokovic his 17th Grand Slam singles title and allowed him to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
Australian Open: Sofia Kenin Defeats Garbiñe Muguruza for Her First Major Title Kenin, an American in her first Grand Slam final, became the tournament’s youngest singles champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008.
Around the Times
How Bad Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Get? Here Are 6 Key Factors Here’s what early research says about how the pathogen behaves and the factors that will determine whether it can be contained.
Trump Acquitted of Two Impeachment Charges in Near Party-Line Vote As Republicans rallied behind President Trump, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, joined Democrats in voting to convict, the only senator to cross party lines.
The Main Theme of ‘1917’? The Innocence That War Destroys Tucked into the plot of Sam Mendes’s new film is a portrayal of the youth and innocence that is so readily destroyed in war.
How to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart Jenny Offill is the master of novels told in sly, burnished fragments. In her latest, ‘Weather,’ she uses this small form to address the climate collapse.
J. Lo and the Power of 50 At the Super Bowl, she proved “dress your age” has no meaning any more.
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