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The World’s Biggest Mobile Technology Fair Has Been Canceled Due to Coronavirus Fears

A worker fixes a poster announcing the Mobile World Congress 2020 in a conference venue in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Intel Mobile is the latest company announcing that is pulling out of the Mobile World Congress scheduled to be held in Barcelona in late February. Authorities still seem to be committed to hold it, meeting foreign diplomats on Tuesday to brief on the efforts to prevent any spread of the new coronavirus virus during the industry show. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

(LONDON) — Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

The annual Mobile World Congress show will no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24-27.

“Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, head of the organizing body, said in a statement Wednesday.

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain’s BT on Wednesday. Other big names that have already dropped out include Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG. The companies cited concerns for the safety of staff and visitors.

Organizers had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China.

Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, said that with all the unknowns surrounding how the new virus is spread, and the fact that many companies had already pulled out, the decision to cancel was the most prudent decision for show organizers.

“They had the ability to protect 100,000 people in one general fairground atmosphere,” he said.

These days, most big companies hold their own product launch events anyway, as Samsung did Tuesday in San Francisco. But Bajarin said Mobile World Congress was still an opportunity for many people in the mobile industry to meet in one place.

“It allowed for a lot of networking and business dealings, so in that context, it was a significant loss,” he said.

The GSMA, the wireless trade body that organizes the fair, had said it was meeting regularly with global and Spanish health experts and its partners to ensure the well-being of attendees. It had already urged participants to avoid handshakes and planned to step up cleaning and disinfecting and make sure speakers don’t use the same microphone.

Earlier Wednesday, Nokia said it had decided to withdraw “after a full assessment of the risks related to a fast-moving situation.” The company said “the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus” and that canceling its involvement was a “prudent decision.”

The departures of Nokia and Ericsson had left China’s Huawei, a major sponsor of the fair, as the only remaining major network gear maker still planning to attend.

Organizers were caught between risking potential backlash over public health concerns if they went ahead or facing big financial losses if they canceled, said Stephen Mears, a research analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

Even before the cancellation, Mears said his five-person team was considering dropping out or shortening the trip as many participants they wanted to meet wouldn’t be there, including those from China, which accounts for an increasing share of the global smartphone and mobile network industry.

“It’s becoming less and less valuable for people like us to attend if we’re not able to get meetings with the high-level executives,” he said.

Spanish authorities tried to promote a message of calm as they scrambled to keep alive the trade show, which they say generates 473 million euros ($516 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.

The Catalan regional health chief, Alba Vergés, said there was a “very low risk of the coronavirus” in the region of Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and that authorities are “completely prepared to detect any cases.” Four suspected cases have all have proven negative, she said at a press briefing earlier.

“There is no public health reason to cancel any event in Catalonia or Barcelona, including the Mobile World Congress,” Vergés said. “If the companies make their own decision, we have to respect that, but we are here to explain this from a public health perspective.”

“There’s no zero risk with any mass gathering,” he said. “There’s a risk of food poisoning, injuries, buildings have collapsed. All meeting organizers have to put in place a risk-management strategy. Many of the risks can be reduced through simple measures and if an event occurs, those can also be managed.”

Ryan added that most events “can continue if the proper measures can be applied.”

Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, AP Technology Writer Mae Anderson in New York and AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

By Kelvin Chan / AP February 12, 2020

Source: The World’s Biggest Mobile Technology Fair Has Been Canceled Due to Coronavirus Fears

The Coronavirus, or Covid-19 is hitting economies near and far. The world’s largest telecommunications event, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has been cancelled after several big-name companies pulled out due to Coronavirus fears. The cancellation will have a massive impact on the local economy, as it usually brings 100,000 people to the city. Subscribe to France 24 now: http://f24.my/youtubeEN FRANCE 24 live news stream: all the latest news 24/7 http://f24.my/YTliveEN Visit our website: http://www.france24.com Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://f24.my/youtubeEN Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FRANCE24.Eng… Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/France24_en

 

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Cruise Ship Stranded At Sea Over Coronavirus Fears To Dock In Cambodia

Topline: A cruise ship that was turned away from several ports in Asia over coronavirus fears—despite no cases onboard—will now dock in Cambodia after days of uncertainty and mounting anxiety among passengers.

  • The Holland America Line’s MS Westerdam was banned from docking by Thailand earlier this week, over concerns about coronavirus on the ship. Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival Cruise, says nobody onboard has reported symptoms.
  • It will now dock in Sihanoukville in Cambodia on Thursday, where passengers will disembark over a few day and will be transported to the capital, Phnom Penh, and flown home. Holland America Line says it will pay for the flight sand refund passengers their entire trip.
  • The MS Westerdam had planned to disembark its passengers in Thailand after Japan, The Philippines and Guam turned away the cruise ship. The Thai government on Tuesday offered fuel, food, and medicine to the cruise ship.
  • Stephen Hansen and his wife are two of the 1,500 passengers stuck on the vessel, which sailed from Hong Kong on February 1st and had been scheduled to end its cruise in Japan on February 15.
  • Hansen told Forbes: “While I can understand that countries want to protect their own citizens first before helping us their decisions to turn us away are based more on misinformation and fear than facts.”
  • Holland America said in a statement on Wednesday: “All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support…All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been.”
  • Passengers had been calling for political intervention, with Hansen saying that the countries’ decision to reject the vessel was down to “misinformation and fear,” rather than facts.

Key background: Cruise ships have become an unlikely flashpoint in the battle to stop the international spread of the coronavirus. The British-owned Diamond Princess cruise was quarantined in Tokyo last Monday, with 174 out of the 3,700 passengers on board now ill with the pneumonia-like illness. Around 3,600 passengers and crew were held aboard the World Dream cruise ship for four days in Hong Kong over concerns the ship staff had contracted the virus from infected passengers on an earlier cruise. Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade organization, announced last week its members would bar passengers who had visited China, Hong Kong, or Macau, 14 days before their cruise, from boarding.

News peg: Coronavirus, this week renamed Covid-19, has now killed more than 1,000 people and infected at least 42,000 more. The outbreak is concentrated in mainland China, after the virus was first detected in patients who are thought to have visited a Wuhan market in December. Airlines have also been badly disrupted, with some international carriers suspended their flights to and from China, and a number of international companies and manufacturers have been impacted by the Chinese government’s move to extend the Lunar new year holiday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus. Tens of millions were placed under lockdown by Chinese health authorities in cities like Wuhan that have seen the highest number of reported cases.

Further reading: Thailand Turns Away Cruise Ship Rejected By Three Nations Over Coronavirus Fears

Crew Members Plead For Rescue As Coronavirus Outbreak On Cruise Ship Grows To 135 Cases (Rachel Sandler)

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I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at isabel.togoh@forbes.com, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.

Source: Cruise Ship Stranded At Sea Over Coronavirus Fears To Dock In Cambodia

A luxury liner has been stranded for days after been denied entry in the Philippines and Japan. The Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, has not reported any cases of coronavirus among the 2,200 passengers and crew. Subscribe to our channel here: https://cna.asia/youtubesub Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: https://cna.asia/telegram Follow us: CNA: https://cna.asia CNA Lifestyle: http://www.cnalifestyle.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/channelnewsasia Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/channelnews… Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/channelnewsasia

WHO Warns of Global Shortage of Protective Equipment Due to Coronavirus as Death Toll Hits 638

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the world is facing “severe disruption” in the market for personal protective equipment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal and prices are up to 20 times higher,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Friday press conference.

General Ghebreyesus says there are depleted stockpiles of equipment like masks and respirators and a 4-6 month backlog of orders for necessary supplies.

“We need to make sure we get it [supplies] to the people who need it most in the places that need it most,” General Ghebreyesus said.

The State Department announced that they are offering $100 million to help China and other countries dealing with the virus.

Meanwhile, a Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about the coronavirus outbreak and was subsequently punished by police died of the virus Thursday in Wuhan.

The Wuhan Central Hospital reported Dr. Li Wenliang’s death on social media, saying that he was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection,” the Associated Press reported.

After initial reports of Li’s death, WHO offered its condolences. “We’re very sorry to hear of the loss of any frontline worker who has attempted to care for patients,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

The coronavirus—known as 2019-nCoV—has infected 31,530 patients globally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s virus tracker.

The virus has also killed one person in the Philippines, and another in Hong Kong.

In Japan, officials said Friday that 41 new cases of the virus had been found on a cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama harbor, bringing the total number of infections onboard to 61. The ship was quarantined after the company learned that a passenger from Hong Kong who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus sailed on the ship, the Diamond Princess, last month.

Japan and Singapore have reported the most patients outside of China, with 45 and 28 respectively.

The number of cases in Japan rose significantly after 10 more people tested positive on a quarantined cruise ship that docked in Yokohama Wednesday,local media reported. The ship was quarantined after the cruise company learned that a passenger from Hong Kong who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus was on board last month.

So far, 99% of confirmed cases are in China and 80% of the cases in China are in Hubei Province, the WHO stated on Wednesday. Excluding China, there are more than 190 cases across 24 countries. At least 31 of those cases involve people with no travel history to China, but all of those cases involve people considered in close contact of a confirmed case or of someone from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

On Friday morning, 27 passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship were screened for possible coronavirus sickness when the ship was docked in Bayonne, New Jersey. No cases were confirmed from the screening

On Wednesday, authorities in Hong Kong announced that all arrivals from mainland China would be quarantined for 14 days starting Saturday, acknowledging that there is risk of an outbreak in the city. However, Chief Executive Carrie Lam once again stopped short of closing the border, despite demands from many Hong Kong residents, including thousands of medical workers who went on strike in an attempt to force the action.

Chinese state media said Thursday that the second hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, officially opened on Thursday. A rush-built hospital with 1,000 beds was completed earlier in the week. Both hospitals were constructed in a matter of days to treat coronavirus patients, an attempt by authorities to contain the deadly outbreak.

Medical experts are suggesting that the illness could be passed from mother-to-fetus as two newborn babies tested positive for the illness, according to Chinese state media.

World Health Organization coordinates global response

The WHO has announced plans to raise at least $675 million for a strategic plan to respond to the outbreak and a forum to convene global researchers to fast-track solutions.

Part of that money — $60 million — is to fund WHO’s operations, while the remainder is for “countries that are especially at risk,” said WHO Director-General Tedros at a press conference on Wednesday.

Tedros had reiterated that the agency’s “greatest concern” is the potential for the respiratory illness to spread to countries with weak health systems.

“Our message to the international community is: invest today or pay more later,” Tedros said. “$675 million U.S. dollars is a lot of money, but it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now during the window of opportunity that we have.”

Tedros thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for already pledging up to $100 million and Japan for contributing $10 million.

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The WHO is monitoring all public health measures taken by all member states, and will “try and bring some cohesion and order to that process in the coming days,” Ryan said.

Tedros also downplayed criticism from John Mackenzie, a member of WHO’s coronavirus emergency committee, who said that China’s initial response to the outbreak was “reprehensible” and that they did not report cases quickly enough. Tedros said he would expect more cases to spread from China to the rest of the world if China was hiding cases, but noted that the WHO would still have a retrospective review in the future.

American response

The State Department announced on Friday that they are sending medical supplies, including masks, gowns and respirators to China to assist with the virus.

The United States is also prepared to spend up to $100 million in funds to help China and other countries impacted by the spread.

A second wave of American evacuations from Wuhan took place Wednesday as a plane with 178 passengers landed at Travis Air Force Base in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control confirmed. Those on board are now subject to a 14-day federal quarantine and will stay at the air force base temporarily.

Those entering the U.S. within 12 days of having been in Hubei or the rest of mainland China will be directed to one of 11 U.S. airports for an additional health assessment, according to the CDC. They include Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Americans traveling back to the U.S. from Hubei province 14 days before returning to the country will be subject to up to 14 days of a mandatory quarantine, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told reporters at a White House press briefing. Any American citizens who were in mainland China 14 days before returning to the U.S. will have to undergo a “self-imposed” quarantine for 14 days.

International cases and response

At least 191 patients have tested positive for the illness across 24 countries, according to the WHO.

A 44-year-old man died in the Philippines on Saturday, the country’s Department of Health confirmed, marking the first person to succumb to the virus outside of China. The man, a resident of Wuhan, China, had arrived in the Philippines on Jan. 21 with a 38-year-old woman, who was also infected.

A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong died on Tuesday, making him the second death outside of mainland China. The patient reportedly had an underlying illness.

There are 24 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, which was hard-hit by the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). More than one-third of the nearly 800 deaths from SARS worldwide were in Hong Kong, and the semi-autonomous Chinese territory had more than 1,700 of the 8,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

Hong Kong’s neighbor, the gambling hub of Macau, confirmed its 10th case of the virus Tuesday. Macau announced the same day that it would be shutting its casinos for two weeks. (The city’s casinos are overwhelmingly reliant on mainland Chinese tourists.)

Russia, Sweden, Spain, the Philippines, Italy, India and the U.K. confirmed their first cases of coronavirus last week.

There are also at least 25 confirmed cases in Japan, 30 in Singapore, 25 in Thailand, 25 in Hong Kong and 24 in South Korea, according to Johns Hopkins University’s virus tracker. Governments and health officials in Nepal, Canada,Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia,Sri Lanka, UAE, France, the U.K., Italy, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Germany have also reported patients testing positive for the virus.

Several countries have tightened their borders to restrict the flow of mainland Chinese visitors.

In Hong Kong, the government has closed all but two entry points, leaving a cross-border bridge and a port in a northwestern part of the territory open. (Visitors can still fly to Hong Kong, though flights between mainland China and Hong Kong have been cut by half.) All travelers coming from China will be quarantined for 14 days starting Feb 8.

Singapore has said it is banning visitors with recent travel history to mainland China and has also banned the entry and transfer of travelers holding passports issued by China’s Hubei Province.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday that Russia would be closing its land border with China from Friday at least until March 1, the Associated Press reported.

Multiple countries are also warning against unnecessary travel to China, and many have already started evacuating their citizens from Wuhan.

Evacuees from Spain, Japan, the U.S. and Europe are among those who have been flown out of Wuhan on government planes.

China travel restricted

Chinese officials have shut down travel in and out of Wuhan — home to 11 million people — and enacted similar, strict transportation restrictions in a number of other cities. Wuhan has suspended immigration administration services, local authorities said Monday, according to Chinese state media.

People in China have started going back to work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday ended, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s Hubei Province has also suspended services to apply for passports and exit-entry permits.

Apple said Saturday it would close stores, corporate offices and contact centers in China “out of an abundance of caution,” the New York Times reported.

Royal Caribbean also announced restrictions, including the cancellation of eight cruises out of China due to the outbreak, according to the AP. The cruise line announced Monday that it would also prohibit any guest or crew member, regardless of nationality, to board a ship if they traveled through mainland China or Hong Kong less than 15 days prior.

Japanese officials said that Japan would ban foreign nationals who have been to Hubei province within two weeks before their arrival. Those carrying Chinese passports issued in Hubei are also banned from entering the country, although special exceptions may be made, government officials said, according to Japan Times.

Australia said it would ban travelers who have visited or transited through mainland China from Saturday onwards for the next two weeks. The restrictions will not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and members of their immediate family, although these groups will be asked to isolate themselves for two weeks from when they departed China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Additionally, Singapore has banned all travelers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days from entry and transit by Sunday morning. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says that Vietnam has suspended almost all flights from and to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1, according to the New York Times.

As the deadly virus spreads, a growing number of airlines including British Airways, Air France, Delta and Lufthansa are suspending all flights to China. Many have cut down the number of flights, and some have stopped flying to major cities.

China organized at least three flights to bring home more than 300 Hubei residents from abroad and plans to dispatch nine flights to bring home about 2,000 Chinese tourists in the Philippines., according to Chinese state media.

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CDC confirms second human-to-human transmission in the U.S.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the second case of the disease transmitting from person-to-person within the U.S. The first American patient diagnosed with the new coronavirus was also discharged from hospital.

A patient in California, who had not recently traveled to China, tested positive for the virus. The patient is married to a person who had previously traveled to China and tested positive for the respiratory illness, according to the California Department of Public Health.

On Monday, hospital officials at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, said the 35-year-old man who was the first to test positive for the new coronavirus in the U.S. has left the facility, the Associated Press reported. The unidentified man is recovering and looking forward to life returning to normal, he told the AP.

The CDC has now confirmed at least 12 cases of the coronavirus infection in the U.S. across Wisconsin, Arizona, Massachusetts, California, Washington state and Illinois. On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services reported an additional confirmed case of the virus in an adult “with a history of travel to Beijing.”

“The individual is isolated at home, and is doing well,” the agency said.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, maintained that the risk to the American public continued to be low, but that the CDC expects to find additional cases in the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the first 2019 new coronavirus diagnostic Tuesday, before which the test had been limited to being used at CDC’s laboratories. The authorization now allows the test to be used at any CDC-qualified lab in the U.S.

The CDC said as of Wednesday morning that 293 individuals across 36 states were considered to be “persons under investigation.” Of those, more than 200 had so far tested negative for the disease. The status of another 76 cases is currently pending.

By Hillary Leung , Sanya Mansoor , Amy Gunia , Jasmine Aguilera , Tara Law and Josiah Bates

Source: WHO Warns of Global Shortage of Protective Equipment Due to Coronavirus as Death Toll Hits 638

Doctors in China Are Starting Human Trials for a Coronavirus Treatment

This photo taken on January 30, 2020 shows medical staff members wearing facemasks talking at a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, during the virus outbreak in the city. - The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the new coronavirus, as China reported January 31 the death toll had climbed to 213 with nearly 10,000 infections.

China has kick-started a clinical trial to speedily test a drug for the novel coronavirus infection as the nation rushes therapies for those afflicted and scours for vaccines to protect the rest.

Remdesivir, a new antiviral drug by Gilead Sciences Inc. aimed at infectious diseases such Ebola and SARS, will be tested by a medical team from Beijing-based China-Japan Friendship Hospital for efficacy in treating the deadly new strain of coronavirus, a hospital spokeswoman told Bloomberg News Monday.

Trial for the drug will be conducted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan — ground zero of the viral outbreak that has so far killed more than 360 people, sickened over 17,000 in China and spread to more than a dozen nations. As many as 270 patients with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus will be recruited in a randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, Chinese news outlet The Paper reported on Sunday.

Drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc. as well as Chinese authorities are racing to crash develop vaccines and therapies to combat the new virus that’s more contagious than SARS and could cost the global economy four times more than the $40 billion sapped by the 2003 SARS outbreak. The decision to hold human trials for remdesivir shows it’s among the most promising therapies against the virus that so far has no specific treatments or vaccines.

Experimental Drug

The experimental drug has not yet been approved for use by any drug regulator in the world but is being used on patients battling the new virus in the absence of approved treatment options, Gilead said in a statement last week.

China’s health regulator has also recommended AbbVie Inc’s HIV medicine Kaletra as an ad-hoc antiviral drug for coronovirus. Kaletra is also set to undergo human trials, according to The Paper.

Meanwhile, a global search continues for therapies to contain the infection that can spread undetected.

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The Coalition, set up in 2017 to spur the development of shots for known diseases and to respond to new viruses, has also signed contracts with drugmakers including Moderna Inc. and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. as early as Jan. 22 to expedite work on vaccines. Novavax Inc. was among the first ones to announce it was working on a candidate too.

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Frontline Treatment

Health officials, however, say a vaccine version may take three months to be available for the first stages of human testing while developing an effective vaccine generally takes years.

That puts remdesivir on the front lines of combating the infection.

The first patient in the U.S. infected with the virus, a 35-year-old man, has seen his pneumonia improve after he was given remdesivir, doctors treating him said in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

By Bloomberg 3:25 AM EST

Source: Doctors in China Are Starting Human Trials for a Coronavirus Treatment

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U.S. and Others Enact Strict Travel Restrictions as Over 12,000 Coronavirus Outbreak Cases Confirmed

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The U.S., Australia, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore have announced strict travel restrictions against visitors flying in from China, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against “limiting trade and movement” as a response to containing the new coronavirus. The respiratory illness has killed more than 250 people in China and infected thousands within the country and dozens beyond its borders, prompting the WHO to declare a global public health emergency.

The total number of global confirmed cases of infection has risen to 12,024 as of Saturday and the death toll is at 259, according to a virus tracker maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, more than 7,100 cases have been confirmed.

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The Trump Administration declared a public health emergency in the U.S. on Friday, announcing that any foreign national who “poses a risk” of transmitting the virus would be temporarily denied entry. The administration maintained that risk to the American public remained low but said it would ban entry to any foreign national who has been in China, barring immediate family of American citizens and permanent U.S. residents.

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This week, Japanese officials reported the country’s 20th case of the virus and said that Japan would ban foreign nationals who have been to Hubei province within two weeks before their arrival. Those carrying Chinese passports issued in Hubei are also banned from entering the country, although special exceptions may be made, government officials said, according to Japan Times.

Australia will ban travelers who have visited or transited through mainland China from Saturday onwards for the next two weeks. The restrictions will not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and members of their immediate family, although these groups will be asked to isolate themselves for two weeks from when they departed China, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Additionally, Singapore has banned all travellers arriving from mainland China who had been there in the past 14 days from entry and transit by Sunday morning. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says that Vietnam has suspended almost all flights from and to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1, according to the New York Times.

The new infection figure surpasses the tally of worldwide cases of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) during the 2002 and 2003 outbreak. SARS had nearly 8,100 confirmed infections and killed nearly 800 people.

As the deadly virus spreads, a growing number of airlines including British Airways, Air France, Delta and Lufthansa are suspending all flights to China. Many have cut down the number of flights, and some have stopped flying to major cities.

American Airlines announced Friday morning it would also suspend all flights to China, just a day after a union representing 15,000 American Airlines pilots sued the company to pressure the carrier to halt flights. The Allied Pilots Association cited “serious, and in many ways still unknown, health threats posed by the coronavirus,” adding that the risk posed to staff and passengers is “unacceptable.”

As several countries are evacuating their citizens from Wuhan, China organized three flights to bring home more than 300 Hubei residents from abroad, according to Chinese state media.

Although the vast majority of cases have occurred in Hubei province, the disease has also spread to over a dozen countries, including the U.S., where eight cases have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Thursday, the CDC announced the first case of the disease transferring from person-to-person within the U.S.

Sweden confirmed its first case of new coronavirus on Friday — a woman who recently visited Wuhan, according to Reuters. Spain also confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday, a German who had contact with patients who tested positive for the disease in Germany, Reuters reported.

Experts are skeptical that official numbers capture the full extent of the outbreak. Researchers in Hong Kong have warned that the actual number of people infected in Wuhan could be more than 30 times higher than the official tally. It’s unclear how long the outbreak will last and how bad it may get.

Experts say symptoms can be very difficult to detect and that many of those who died from the disease had underlying health conditions that involved weakened immune systems, like hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They note that there is still a lot to be learned about the virus’ origins, clinical features and severity. Chinese health officials have said that the virus can be transmitted by touch, that young children can be infected and that the disease’s incubation period is usually between three to seven days.

A taskforce in China is coordinating the efforts to contain the disease and as of Tuesday morning, 4,130 medical staff from around China had arrived in Hubei province; it is expected that a total of 6,000 will arrive. At least two makeshift hospitals created to respond to the virus are being constructed in Wuhan and national health officials have said more than 10,000 beds will be ready in Wuhan soon.

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The construction of one hospital is more than halfway complete and is expected to be attending to patients on Feb. 6. A second hospital is expected to be functional from Feb. 5, according to state media.

On Wednesday, state media reported that nine tons of emergency medical supplies provided by Japan arrived in Wuhan. A government committee to respond to the virus held a meeting on Wednesday and said the situation is still severe. The Chinese New Year public holiday has been extended in an effort to keep people at home. By Thursday morning, more than 900 tons of medical and living supplies, including masks, protective suits and disinfectants, had been transported by road and air to Hubei Province, according to state media. As residents struggle to obtain masks, the Chinese city of Xiamen has decided to sell masks through a lottery, Chinese state media reports. (Health experts say that wearing face masks is probably effective in Wuhan — the epicenter of the crisis — but not in countries with a low risk of community spread, like the U.S.)

American response

From Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, flights from China to the U.S. will be funneled through seven airports with enhanced health screenings, the White House announced on Friday. They include Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International AIrport, Honolulu International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Americans traveling back to the U.S. from Hubei province 14 days before returning to the country will be subject to up to 14 days of a mandatory quarantine, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told reporters at a White House press briefing. Any American citizens who were in mainland China 14 days before returning to the U.S. will have to undergo a “self-imposed” quarantine for 14 days.

Following travel alerts from the U.S. Department of State and news of human-to-human coronavirus spread in the U.S., the CDC had announced that it will quarantine 195 passengers who were repatriated back into the U.S. from the disease’s epicenter in Wuhan, China.

The passengers were evacuated from Wuhan and taken by plane to March Air Reserve Base in California. But around 1,000 Americans still remained in the city, and many said they felt abandoned by the U.S. government.

The CDC announced Friday that all of those individuals who were brought to March Air reserve Base must stay there for 14 days, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus within the U.S. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, called the rare step a necessary response to “an unprecedented public-health threat.”

The State Department has encouraged Americans in China to consider leaving; it is not clear how the CDC will handle future flights returning from China. “The Department of State has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus,” the Level 4 Travel Advisory said.

The State Department alert on Thursday, which puts China in the same travel category as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and North Korea, acknowledged the WHO’s declaration earlier in the day that the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was a global public health emergency.

Azar indicated that China had been much more transparent in its handling of the novel coronavirus compared with the SARS response; the Chinese government had been accused of covering up SARS. “The posture of the Chinese government and levels of cooperation and interaction with us is completely different from what we experienced in 2003 and I want to commend them for that,” Azar said.

The stock market has also taken a hit, as major US indexes fell more than 1% on Monday; the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped as many as 500 points, the Associated Press reported. On Wednesday, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell referred to the coronavirus outbreak as a “very serious issue” but said it was too early to know the extent of economic damage in China and globally, according to the AP.

WHO declares global health emergency

The WHO reconvened an emergency committee and declared a global health emergency Thursday about a week after saying it was “too early to do so.”

The WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference that the decision was “not a vote of no confidence in China,” which he praised for a swift, transparent and effective response to the “unprecedented outbreak.”

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries,” Tedros said. “Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it.”

Virus Expert on the Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak: ‘Don’t Be Complacent. We Must Treat It Extremely Seriously’

Hong Kong infectious disease expert Yuen Kwok-yung discussed the situation of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak with TIME in an exclusive interview. He warns that the disease is very infectious and control measures must be followed.

Tedros said the WHO opposes “any restrictions on travel and trade and other measures against China.”

The organization highlighted concerns about eight cases of human-to-human transmission in four countries — Germany, Vietnam Japan and the U.S., as well as the “rapid acceleration” of confirmed cases of the disease.

The WHO said it has asked member states to share standardized data with the organization on a daily basis so the organization can work towards building a “comprehensive global database” to track the disease’s evolution.

International cases and response

At least 132 patients have tested positive for the illness across 23 countries, according to the WHO. The majority of cases outside China are associated with travel to the mainland, and of those, the most involve visiting Wuhan, the agency says.

Russia and the UK confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday. In the UK, two people who are members of the same family have been infected, according to the National Health Service.

“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately,” said Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty in a public statement. “We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”

Russia also has confirmed two cases, according to Russia Today, citing Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikivoa.

The Philippines, Italy and India confirmed their first cases of the deadly virus on Thursday. In India, a student from the southern state of Kerala who attends a university in Wuhan tested positive for the virus, while in the Philippines, a 38-year-old woman from Wuhan was diagnosed despite being reportedly asymptomatic.

There are also at least 19 confirmed cases in Thailand, 18 in Singapore, 12 in Hong Kong, nine in Taiwan, seven in Macau and nine in Australia. Governments and health officials in Japan, Nepal, Canada, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, UAE, France, the UK, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Germany have also reported patients testing positive for the virus.

Several countries have tightened their borders to restrict the flow of mainland Chinese visitors. Hong Kong announced Tuesday that it would deny entry to individual travelers and close a high-speed rail that connects the city to Southern China. Singapore said Friday it is banning visitors with recent travel history to mainland China.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday that Russia would be closing its land border with China from Friday at least until March 1, the Associated Press reported.

Mongolia’s official news agency has said the country closed border crossings with China on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

7,000 people were stuck on a cruise ship in Italy in a port near Rome as a couple was being tested for the virus, according to CNN.

In a bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus, Hong Kong announced Tuesday that it will deny entry to individual travelers from the mainland, dramatically expanding a ban that had previously applied only to visitors from Hubei province. The semi-autonomous city will also sharply reduce cross-border transit, shutting down rail and ferry service to China, halving flights and decreasing tour buses. Several border checkpoints will also close in what Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lame termed a “partial shutdown” during a livestreamed press conference. The measures went into effect on Jan. 30.

Singapore has banned the entry and transfer of travelers holding passports issued by China’s Hubei Province from Wednesday onwards.

Chinese authorities have said they will suspend tour groups and travel packages.

Multiple countries are also warning against unnecessary travel to China, and some have already started evacuating their citizens from Wuhan.

A group of 21 Spanish citizens were evacuated and flown from Wuhan and landed in Madrid on Friday, according to Spanish media.

Two government-chartered planes carrying more than 300 Japanese citizens from Wuhan arrived on Wednesday and Thursday. At least three Japanese citizens on the flight tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to local media.

The British government confirmed that an evacuation flight from Wuhan’s airport to the UK can depart on Friday at 5 a.m. local time.

Pakistan has chosen not to evacuate Pakistanis in China after learning that four Pakistani students in China tested positive for the virus. State health officials have said they are “monitoring the situation around the clock.”

Two planes would be mobilized to repatriate E.U. citizens from the Wuhan area to Europe, according to the European Commission. The E.U. said it would co-finance the transport costs; the first aircraft was scheduled to leave from France on Wednesday and a second plane will leave later in the week. Authorities estimated that about 250 French citizens would be transported in the first flight and more than 100 E.U. citizens from other countries will be on board the second aircraft.

Wuhan travel restricted

Chinese officials have shut down travel in and out of Wuhan — home to 11 million people — and enacted similar, strict transportation restrictions in a number of other cities. Immigration authorities said on Monday that no passengers have left the Chinese mainland over the past four days through the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport or the Hankou Port. China’s Hubei Province has also suspended services to apply for passports and exit-entry permits.

The head of the health commission of the Chinese city of Huanggang was sacked Thursday night, the South China Morning Post reported.

Videos appearing to originate from Wuhan show residents chanting from their homes, “Wuhan, stay strong” as cases across the country continued to increase.

Apple said Saturday it would close stores, corporate offices and contact centers in China “out of an abundance of caution,” the New York Times reported.

High school students have turned to online classes to prepare for exams.

Wuhan’s mayor acknowledged that information was not disclosed quickly enough at the virus’ outset, and said he is willing to resign if it would help contain the outbreak.

Authorities have also banned all forms of wildlife trade and implemented strict regulations on activities related to wild animals. The virus was first detected as a form of viral pneumonia centered on a seafood market in Wuhan on Dec. 12. Many of the first reported cases were people who worked at the market, which also sold wild animal meat. Officials closed down the market.

So far, no deaths from the virus have been confirmed outside the Chinese mainland. The city of Beijing reported its first death on Monday and last week confirmed that a 9-month-old tested positive for the disease.

CDC confirms first human-to-human transmission in the U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an eighth case of the new coronavirus in the U.S. on Saturday. On Friday, the CDC announced that they had detected the disease in California in a patient who recently returned from Wuhan.

The CDC has now confirmed eight cases of the coronavirus infection in the U.S. — one in Arizona, one in Massachusetts, three in California, one in Washington state and two in Illinois.

On Thursday, the CDC announced the first case of the novel coronavirus transferring from person-to-person within the U.S. — a Chicago resident in his 60s who had not traveled to China recently. The patient is married to an Illinois woman whom the CDC previously confirmed as testing positive for the virus.

The man has an underlying medical condition but public health officials would not elaborate on what he suffered from.

The agency said as of Friday that 241 individuals across 36 states were considered to be “persons under investigation” of which more than 100 had so far tested negative for the disease.

“Given what we’ve seen in China and other countries with the novel coronavirus, CDC experts have expected some person-to-person spread in the US,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield “We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.”

The CDC’s travel precaution is currently at a level three, recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China because of the disease.

Companies tell employees to work from home, avoid travel

Companies across China are taking precautions, as well. Chinese gaming giant Tencent and the tech company ByteDance, which owns the app TikTok, have told staff to work from home, according to the BBC.

The co-working company WeWork is temporarily shutting more than 50 offices across China, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Facebook has stopped non-essential travel to China, and Starbucks is temporarily closing some of its China stores, according to Bloomberg. Several major cruise lines have also suspended some voyages leaving from China.

Flight attendants working for Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flagship airline, will be allowed to wear facemasks while working.

In Hong Kong, the government notified its workers on Monday that all workers except essential public servants and emergency services personnel can work from home until Feb. 2.

By Sanya Mansoor , Amy Gunia and Jasmine Aguilera

Source: U.S. and Others Enact Strict Travel Restrictions as Over 12,000 Coronavirus Outbreak Cases Confirmed

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