China's decision to lock down the central city of Wuhan — with more people than London or New York — in a dramatic attempt to halt the spread of the deadly new coronavirus now rampaging across the country shocked even the World Health Organization, whose representative said a move to "contain a city of 11 million people is new to science."

Other decisive acts followed and, by Sunday more than 56 million people in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, were quarantined, with many other cities taking their own steps to isolate the virus.

While such actions show determination, they may have come too late. Chinese President Xi Jinping himself acknowledged this, saying on Jan. 25, the first day of the year of the rat, that the spread of the deadly new virus was "accelerating."