China faced deepening isolation over its coronavirus epidemic today as the death toll soared to 259 – with the US and Australia leading nations in imposing Chinese travel bans.
With Britain, Russia and Sweden among the countries confirming their first infections, the virus has now spread to more than two dozen nations, sending governments scurrying to limit their exposure.
China toughened its own quarantine measures at the centre of the outbreak in Hubei province, a day after the US temporarily barred entry to foreigners who had been in China within the past two weeks.
A World Health Organisation official said other governments need to prepare for a ‘domestic outbreak control’ if the disease spreads in their countries
A passenger wearing a protective mask reads the news on the Hong Kong subway on Saturday
Tourists wearing face masks arrive to Lapland at Rovaniemi airport in Rovaniemi, Finland on February 1
‘Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents… will be denied entry into the United States,’ Health Secretary Alex Azar said.
Australia said it was barring entry to non-citizens arriving from China, while Australian citizens who had travelled there would be required to go into ‘self-isolation’ for two weeks.
Vietnam suspended all flights from mainland China and Hong Kong effective from Saturday. Taiwan also initially appeared on the list of banned routes but references to the self-ruled island were later removed.
Similar expansive restrictions have been announced by countries including Italy, Singapore, and China’s northern neighbour Mongolia.
The US, Japan, Britain, Germany and other nations had already advised their citizens not to travel to China.
Britain said Saturday it was temporarily withdrawing some diplomatic staff and their families from across the country, a day after the US State Department ordered embassy employees to send home family members under the age of 21.
People are seen wearing surgical masks on the balcony of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe hospital on the remote Spanish island of La Gomera
A passenger wears a mask following an outbreak of the coronavirus in China at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia on January 31
A woman wears a mask as she buys vegetables at a market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Saturday
Spanish authorities confirmed that a German tourist was taken ill with the infection while on holiday in the Canary Islands.
The man was put into hospital quarantine on Wednesday after it emerged he had come into contact with another coronavirus patient in his home country before flying to Spain.
Britain and France are among 20 countries outside of mainland China to confirm cases of the virus as tech giant Apple has confirmed closure of all major stores and offices in the country.
The German tourist is currently in hospital in La Gomera, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, and a popular destination for British tourists seeking a getaway from the country’s brash Costa resorts.
People wear protective masks during their visit to Global Village in Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates on February 1
People wearing protective masks walk at Global Village in Gulf emirate of Dubai
A sunglasses seller wearing protective mask at the Global Village in Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Four other people he jetted to Spain with have also been tested.
The group had been staying at a rented holiday home near the small town of Hermigua, a popular base for walkers.
A spokesman for Spain’s Health Ministry said last night: ‘The National Centre of Microbiology has confirmed a case of coronavirus detected in Spain after tests on one of the samples sent from La Gomera.
‘The patient has been quarantined in hospital in La Gomera.
‘He was part of a group of five people that were under observation after it emerged he had been in contact in Germany with a patient diagnosed with the illness.’
Local reports said medical workers dressed in head-to-toe protective suits had taken the tourists away around midday on Wednesday.
Hermigua mayor Yordan Pinero urged worried residents and tourists afterwards to stay calm, insisting all ‘health protocols’ had been activated.
The five Germans are being kept at at a hospital in La Gomera called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
The five Germans are being kept at at a hospital in La Gomera called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (pictured)
Two of the holidaymakers are understood to have had direct contact with a coronavirus patient in Germany before checking into their holiday home with three other compatriots.
Apple has said it will close all of its official stores and corporate offices in mainland China until February 9 as fears over the coronavirus outbreak have mounted.
A spokesman for Apple said: ‘Out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts, we’re closing all our corporate offices, stores, and contact centers in mainland China through February 9.’
The company said looked forward to re-opening stores ‘as soon as possible’.
Earlier this week, Apple closed three stores in China due to concerns about the spread of the virus.
People queue up to buy face masks in Hong Kong. Apple has said it will close all of its official stores and corporate offices in mainland China until February 9 as fears over the coronavirus outbreak have mounted
Customers queue in a store in Hong Kong to buy surgical masks. Employees in China are being urged to work from home and cease non-essential business travel in the first week of February
It’s joining a handful of overseas retailers, including Starbucks Corp and McDonald’s Corp to temporarily shut storefronts as a precautionary measure.
Many other companies, meanwhile, have called for employees in China to work from home and cease non-essential business travel in the first week of February.
And to help prevent the spread of the viral outbreak, China has asked couples to delay their nuptials from a popular wedding date and to scale down funeral services to help slow the spread of infection.
February 2 this year is being considered a lucky date for wedding ceremonies because the sequence of numbers ‘02022020’ reads the same backwards as forwards.
‘Where marriage registrations have been announced or promised for February 2 this year, you are advised to cancel it and explain the situation to others,’ a civil affairs ministry statement said.
Beijing, Shanghai and other cities had earlier decided to offer wedding registry services on the date, despite it falling on a Sunday when offices are usually closed.
The ministry said it would temporarily halt marriage counselling services and asked the public not to hold wedding banquets.
It also said funerals should be held in a ‘simple and expeditious manner to avoid gatherings of people’ and the bodies of any victims of the coronavirus should be cremated as soon as possible.
Staff handling funerals should wear protective gear and carry out temperature checks to avoid risking infection, the statement added.
Officials in Hubei announced Saturday that they would suspend all marriage registrations from Monday until further notice.
Normally, businesses in China would be preparing to return to normal operations following the end of the week-long Lunar New Year Holiday.
However schools and universities nationwide have been told not to resume classes, officials have urged factories to delay their return to work and the public has been asked to avoid large crowds.
Tech giant Apple remains heavily reliant on China both for smartphone sales as well as for its supply chain and manufacturing.
A shop assistant re stocks boxes of surgical masks as many people queue to purchase protective items
People are seen shopping in Beijing as China’s death toll for the virus rose to 259 with 11,946 cases worldwide
Many factories in Hubei province, including plants run by AB InBev and General Motors Co, have temporarily suspended production due to the virus.
In a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was working out mitigation plans to deal with possible production loss from its suppliers in Wuhan.
It comes as the Foreign Office is withdrawing staff from China while essential staff will remain to continue ‘critical work’.
The FCO has warned that its ability to provide help to Britons in the country may be ‘limited’.
People wear surgical masks as they leave a Walmart grocery store in Beijing as the World Health Organisation said other governments need to prepare for’domestic outbreak control’ if the disease spreads in their countries
Queues continue outside stores in Hong Kong as people wait to stock up on protective masks
Rescued UK nationals were taken to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in a convoy of six coaches, arriving shortly after 7.15pm yesterday.
The evacuation flight from Wuhan at the centre of the outbreak carried 83 Britons and 27 non-UK nationals and landed at the Brize Norton RAF base in Oxfordshire.
The passengers will spend the next 14 days in quarantine and have access to a team of medical staff who will closely monitor their condition.
A World Health Organisation official said other governments need to prepare for a ‘domestic outbreak control’ if the disease spreads in their countries.
Beijing criticized Washington’s order barring entry to most foreigners who visited China in the past two weeks.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced similar measures on Saturday, following Japan and Singapore.
Meanwhile, South Korea and India flew hundreds of their citizens out of Wuhan, the city at the center of an area where some 50 million people are prevented from leaving in a sweeping anti-virus effort.
The evacuees went into a two-week quarantine. Indonesia also sent a plane.
The number of confirmed cases in China rose to 11,791, surpassing the number in the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The virus’s rapid spread in two months prompted the World Health Organization on Thursday to declare it a global emergency.
A medical worker wearing a full hazmat suit can be seen in the bus next to a driver – wearing no protective gear – while the British evacuees from Wuhan sit in the back
The view inside one of the rooms that will be used to quarantine some 83 Britons at Arrowe Park Hospital
That declaration ‘flipped the switch’ from a cautious attitude earlier to recommending governments prepare for the possibility the virus might spread, said the WHO representative in Beijing, Gauden Galea. Most cases reported so far have been people who visited China or their family members.
The agency acted out of concern for poorer countries that might not be equipped to respond, said Galea. Such a declaration calls for a coordinated international response and can bring more money and resources.
WHO said it was especially concerned that some cases abroad involved human-to-human transmission.
A staff member gazing out of a window at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside as the British nationals arrived last night
‘Countries need to get ready for possible importation in order to identify cases as early as possible and in order to be ready for a domestic outbreak control, if that happens,’ Galea told The Associated Press.
On Friday, the United States declared a public health emergency and President Donald Trump signed an order barring entry to foreign nationals, other than immediate family of American citizens and permanent residents, who visited China within the last 14 days, which scientists say is the virus’s longest incubation period.
China criticized the U.S. controls, which it said contradicted the WHO’s appeal to avoid travel bans, and ‘unfriendly comments’ that Beijing was failing to cooperate.
‘Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the U.S. rushed to go in the opposite way. Certainly not a gesture of goodwill,’ said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that despite the emergency declaration, there is ‘no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.’
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party postponed the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, for an unspecified ‘appropriate extent’ and appealed to the public there to stay home.
Another locked-down city in Hubei, Huanggang, on Saturday banned almost all its residents from leaving their homes in the most stringent controls imposed yet. The government said only one person from each household would be allowed out to shop for food once every two days.
‘Others are not allowed to go out except for medical treatment, to do epidemic prevention and control work or to working in supermarkets and pharmacies,’ said the announcement.
A woman wears a protective face mask as she arrives from Hubei province at a checkpoint at the Jiujiang Yangtze River Bridge
China’s increasingly drastic anti-disease controls started with the January 23 suspension of plane, bus and train links to Wuhan, an industrial center of 11 million people. The lockdown has spread to surrounding cities.
The holiday, China’s busiest annual travel season, ends on Sunday in the rest of the country following a three-day extension to postpone the return to factories and offices by hundreds of millions of workers.
The official Xinhua News Agency said people in Hubei who work outside the province also were given an extended holiday.
It comes as China has flown two planeloads of its citizens back home to Hubei, the locked-down province at the centre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
A Xiamen Airlines charter flight from Bangkok touched down late Friday in the provincial capital Wuhan, where the infection is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals.
This woman seems to be happy that she has returned home – despite the threat posed by the virus
The Chinese residents were evacuated from Thailand on a specially chartered jet
Health officials wearing full protective clothing greeted passengers arriving on a Xiamen Airlines flight from Thailand to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport
The people on board the charter flight arrived in an area which has been locked down by Chinese authorities in an effort to prevent a further spread of the Coronavirus
Health authorities in white, full-body protective gear stood by the cabin door as the plane’s 73 passengers disembarked, smiling through face masks and waving to news photographers.
The party decision ‘highlighted the importance of prevention and control of the epidemic among travelers,’ Xinhua said.
Americans returning from China will be allowed into the country, but will face screening and are required to undertake 14 days of self-screening. Those returning from Hubei province will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Beginning Sunday, the United States will direct flights from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened.
Also Friday, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suspended all flights between the United States and China. Other carriers including British Airways, Finnair and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific also have canceled or cut back service to mainland China.
The U.S. order followed a travel advisory for Americans to consider leaving China. Japan and Germany also advised against non-essential travel to China and Britain did as well, except for Hong Kong and Macao.
A plane carrying Indians from Wuhan landed Saturday in New Delhi. The government said they would be quarantined in a nearby city, Manesar. Sri Lanka also pulled out more of its citizens and promised to bring out the remaining 204 students.
South Korea’s second evacuation flight landed in Seoul with 330 people from Wuhan. They were to be screened for fever before being taken to two quarantine centers.
South Korea also reported its 12th virus case, which appeared to be a human-to-human transmission.
A passenger arrives from Wuhan at the National Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, after showing suspected symptoms of coronavirus
At least 23 countries have reported cases since China informed WHO about the new virus in late December.
Both the new virus and SARS are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that cause the common cold. Experts say there is evidence the new virus is spreading among people in China.
Although scientists expect to see limited transmission of the virus between people with family or other close contact, they are concerned about cases of infection spreading to people who might have less exposure.
In Japan, a tour guide and bus driver became infected after escorting two tour groups from Wuhan. In Germany, five employees of a German auto parts supplier became ill after a Chinese colleague visited, including two who had no direct contact with the woman. She showed no symptoms until her flight back to China.
On Saturday, Japan reported its 17th case, a woman in her 20s who also worked as a guide for Wuhan tourists on the same bus as the two other cases.
Vietnam confirmed one more case for a total of six, and Australia counted its ninth infection.
On Friday, Germany confirmed a sixth case, a child of one of the people already infected. In the United States, health officials issued a two-week quarantine order for the 195 Americans evacuated this week from Wuhan.
It was the first time a federal quarantine has been ordered since the 1960s, when one was enacted over concern about smallpox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
None of the Americans being housed at a Southern California military base has shown signs of illness, but infected people don’t show symptoms immediately and may be able to pass on the virus before they appear sick.
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