US declares emergency, new entry restrictions due to virus

Delta. American, United suspend flights between US and China

(AP) - The United States has declared a public health emergency because of a new virus that hit China and has spread to other nations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also announced that President Donald Trump will temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals believed to be a risk of transmitting the virus.

The new restrictions begin Sunday afternoon. Americans returning from Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

Others returning from elsewhere in China will be allowed to self-monitor their condition for a similar period.

The U.S. earlier advised against all travel to China as the number of cases of a worrying new virus spiked more than tenfold in a week, including the highest death toll in a 24-hour period.

As the virus has spread overseas, many residents of majority-Asian cities just east of Los Angeles say they are staying inside as much as they can and wearing surgical masks when they go out.

Organizers of some Lunar New Year celebrations are going a step further by canceling events in places like New York City, Maryland, Arizona and California.

There have been reports in some places of stores running out of medical masks.

Travel restrictions

The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a worrying sign of its spread among people that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency.

China started sending flights to bring Hubei residents home from overseas, citing “practical difficulties” they were encountering.

China has placed more than 50 million people under virtual quarantine, while countries, companies and airlines have cut back severely on travel to China and quarantined those who recently passed through Wuhan.

Delta announced on Friday that it has decided to temporarily suspend all U.S. to China flights between Feb. 6 and April 30.

“Between now and Feb. 5, Delta will continue to operate flights to ensure customers looking to exit China have options to do so,” Delta said in a statement. “The last China-bound flight departing the U.S. will leave on Monday, Feb. 3 with the last return flight back to the U.S. departing China on Feb. 5.”

American Airlines and United are also hitting the pause button on flights to China.

“American is suspending its operations to and from the Chinese mainland beginning today through March 27,” the airline said Friday. “Our teams are contacting affected customers directly to accommodate their needs.”

Under quarantine

U.S. health officials have issued a quarantine order for all 195 American evacuees from China. The evacuees will spend two weeks at a military base in California.

They were flown earlier this week from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the new virus outbreak. They landed Wednesday at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California.

Officials believe it can take up to 14 days for someone who is infected to develop symptoms. As of Thursday, none of the evacuees had shown symptoms of the virus.

Thai health authorities have confirmed five more cases of a new type of virus and say one of them is a taxi driver who is the country's first to become ill through human-to-human contact.

Singapore will bar all visitors from China, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to tighten border controls to stop the spread of a new virus.

American describes life in Wuhan, shut down by virus

The health ministry says from Saturday, all Chinese travelers as well as foreigners who have visited China in the past two weeks will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. It says short-term and multiple-visit visas previously issued to those with Chinese passports will also be suspended.

Singaporeans who have been to China are allowed back but will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

Singapore had previously barred Chinese travelers only from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The ministry said the expanded move was prudent as the virus has spread.

More than 3 million Chinese tourists flock annually to Singapore, a popular holiday and shopping destination.

The Singapore government earlier said it is trying to track down at least 2,000 visitors from Hubei who arrived this month after the city reported 13 cases, all visitors from Wuhan.

Spreading internationally

England has confirmed its first cases of a new virus that has sickened thousands in China.

England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Friday that two members of the same family tested positive and the National Health Service was working to identify their contacts with others.

Whitty's statement said. "The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.''

Whitty’s statement did not offer any details on the origin of the two cases. Most of the illnesses outside China involved travel to the epicenter of the outbreak or contact with someone who had.

The new cases reported Friday bring Thailand's total to 19 cases. All of the others are Chinese visitors or people who traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Thailand is a major destination for tourists from China, more than 10 million of whom visited the country last year.

Local spread of the illness is a growing concern because it suggests the virus can spread more easily, making it harder to contain. The World Health Organization cited such cases when it declared the outbreak a global emergency Thursday.

Germany’s foreign ministry is urging citizens to postpone non-essential travel to China and explicitly discouraging any travel to Hubei province, the epicenter of an outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

Officials say Berlin plans to send a military jet to pick up dozens of Germans from the city of Wuhan on Saturday. They will be flown to Frankfurt and kept in quarantine for 14 days.

So far, Germany has confirmed five cases of 2019-nCoV, as the new virus that originated in central China is officially called. All five cases involve employees of German auto parts supplier Webasto who came into contact with a visiting employee from Wuhan.

An association of Ethiopian students says in a statement released Friday that students are demanding “to be repatriated back to Ethiopia as quickly as possible.”

The estimated 300 Ethiopian students in Wuhan have submitted the request to embassy representatives, who are communicating with Chinese officials about a growing concern over food shortages.

The statement says that the stranded students are “shocked” by the outbreak but “luckily no Ethiopian has so far been affected.”

Students from Kenya, Cameroon and elsewhere have expressed similar worries as richer nations begin evacuating some of their citizens.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry is also urging its citizens not to travel to China because of the possibility of the further spread of a new virus.

Japan had previously warned people not to travel to the epicenter of the virus in Wuhan. Officials in China and around the world are trying to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Pakistani authorities say that they are halting all flights to and from China with immediate effect in light of the outbreak of a new virus.

The government Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar says that “under this decision all flight to and from China will remain suspended until February 2.”

He says this affects 22 weekly flights, including two Pakistan International Airlines flights.

The move panicked relatives of Pakistanis stranded in China a day after top Pakistani health official Zafar Mirza said that Islamabad had no immediate plan to evacuate any of some 30,000 nationals living in China.

Mirza says four Pakistani students in China have been diagnosed with the new virus and their conditions are listed as stable. About 500 Pakistani students were in Wuhan — the site of the outbreak — at the time it surfaced. Mirza said although the virus has killed 170 people in China, authorities in Beijing have done a good job of containing it by taking swift measures.

South Korea has reported four more cases of a new virus, including human-to-human transmissions, bringing its number of infections to 11.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the new cases included three people who had contacted the country’s fifth and sixth patients. Another case involves a 62-year-old woman who returned from a visit to the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Qingdao on Jan. 23. Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak.

The agency earlier Friday reported a 28-year-old man as the seventh case. He returned home on the same flight with the 62-year-old woman.

China counted 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213, including 43 new fatalities.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry says it will send charter flights to bring home residents of worst-hit Hubei province from overseas.

Kenya Airways says it has suspended flights to China starting Friday until further notice.

It is the first word of any airline in sub-Saharan Africa suspending flights, and it comes hours after the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a global health emergency. It cited concern for potential spread in countries with weaker surveillance and disease control.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency.

Some Americans plan to leave China following a U.S. government advisory about a spreading virus outbreak but many others are staying.

The State Department issued a travel advisory Friday saying Americans in China “should consider departing.”

In addition to tourists, tens of thousands of Americans live and work in China, many in business and teaching. Some have been in the country for decades.

China under pressure

As global anxiety about a new virus rises, Chinese authorities are striving to keep 50 million people in cities at the center of the outbreak both isolated and fed in the biggest anti-disease effort ever attempted.

Few governments could attempt such drastic restrictions on a population bigger than South Korea’s or Australia’s.

They are made possible by the ruling Communist Party’s extensive controls on society and experience combating the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. But the government has released no details of how it is enforcing travel curbs on smaller roads and villages on the outskirts of the vast locked-down area.

Markets take a beating

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street as investors feared that a virus outbreak that originated in China will dent the global economy.

Technology companies, which do a lot of business with China, led the losses. Airlines fell after Delta and American suspended flights to and from China.

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