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Coronavirus: Countries bar infected citizens from returning homeland

A medical official takes the body temperature of a man at the departure hall of the airport in Changsha, Hunan Province, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, China (Photo:  Reuters)Premium
A medical official takes the body temperature of a man at the departure hall of the airport in Changsha, Hunan Province, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, China (Photo: Reuters)

  • The WHO had declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern as death toll hits 213
  • Global airlines have suspended or scaled back direct flights to China's major cities

The deadly novel coronavirus has so far spread to at least 22 countries, including Germany, Australia and the United States. The US State Department told Americans not to travel to China as the first case of person-to-person transmission reported in the country on Thursday.

China has reported an increase in fatalities and infections as the virus has claimed over 213 lives, with the number of cases soaring overnight.

Nearly 9,800 cases have been reported in 18 countries and territories. Chinese authorities said the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak.

Governments, global companies and international health organizations rushed to contain the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. Global airlines have suspended or scaled back direct flights to China's major cities. As containment efforts intensify, the likelihood of the virus disrupting global businesses and the world’s second-largest economy appears to be growing.

Anxiety is growing amid evidence that the disease has an incubation period of as long as two weeks before those infected start to show signs of the illness. That raises the possibility that people who are carrying the virus but don’t show symptoms could infect others.

Here are the latest developments:

India bans export of all kind of respiratory masks

The Indian government today banned exports of all kinds of personal protection equipment, including clothing and masks used to protect people from air borne particles, PTI reported.

The move assumes significance as there could be a spurt in demand for such products due to outbreak of deadly coronavirus that has claimed more than 200 lives in China while the number of confirmed cases reached near 10,000.

"Exports of all varieties of personal protection equipment including clothing and masks used to protect the wearer from air borne particles and/or any other respiratory masks or any other personal protective clothing (including coveralls and N95 masks) hereby prohibited with immediate effect till further orders," the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) said in a notification.

Germany expects coronavirus vaccine within months

Germany's research minister said today she expected a vaccine for coronavirus to be developed within months.

"If we want to contain this illness then it is good if we have a vaccine in a relatively short time and we assume this will be in a few months," said Research Minister Anja Karliczek.

She made the announcement after biopharmaceutical company CureVac AG and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) said they were working together to develop a vaccine against the virus, first detected in China in December.

Plane carrying Britons, others from China's Wuhan lands in UK

A plane carrying 83 British and 27 foreign nationals landed in Britain after flying from China's central city of Wuhan, the centre of a virus epidemic that has killed more than 200 people and infected more than 9,000.

The plane arrived at the Royal Air Force base at Brize Norton in central England and the Britons will be taken to a National Health Service facility where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

It is due to continue on to Spain, where the home countries of European Union citizens will take responsibility for the remaining passengers.

Air India special flight lands in Wuhan

Air India special flight which departed today from Delhi has landed in Wuhan (China) for the evacuation of Indians, ANI reported.

Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani said at least 400 Indians will be evacuated today. The flight will return by 2 am tomorrow.

Russia reports first two cases of coronavirus

Russia reported its first two cases of coronavirus today and said the infected people were Chinese citizens who had been isolated, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova told reporters.

Golikova said all direct flights to China from Russia would be halted from 2100 GMT on Friday, with the exception of national airline Aeroflot.

Gujarat informs MEA about 215 students in China

The Gujarat government has shared with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Indian Embassy in China the information about over 200 students from the state, who are currently in the neighbouring country and want to return after the outbreak of novel coronavirus there, officials said on Friday.

The State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC) in Gujarat has collected and shared the information about these students and a few other people from the state living in China.

"The SEOC control room in Gandhinagar has shared the details about 215 persons, mostly students, with the MEA and the Indian Embassy in China to help the authorities in bringing them back," Deputy Collector, SEOC, Trupti Vyas said.

UK evacuation plane leaves Wuhan with 110 people on board

A plane chartered by Britain to evacuate its citizens and other foreign nationals on Friday departed the Chinese city at the epicentre of a deadly virus outbreak with 110 people aboard, AFP reported.

The civilian aircraft left Wuhan in central China at around 9:45 am local time (0145 GMT) carrying 83 Britons and 27 foreign citizens, according to the Foreign Office.

The jet will land at Brize Norton Royal Air Force base in central England at around 1:00 pm (1300 GMT) local time, then head to Spain where the remaining EU nationals will disembark.

The returning Britons will be isolated for 14 days at a medical facility in the northwest of England.

Italy declares state of emergency after confirmed coronavirus cases: Report

Italy's cabinet today decided to declare a state of emergency after the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the country, a government source said.

Two Chinese tourists in Rome have contracted the virus and have been put in an isolation unit of a hospital specialized in infectious diseases and viruses, while authorities are trying to piece together the itinerary of their trip across Italy.

WHO urges countries to keep borders open, trade & people moving despite coronavirus

Borders should be kept open and people and trade flowing in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, although countries have a sovereign right to take measures to try to protect their citizens, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

There is a "huge reason to keep official border crossings open" to avoid people entering irregularly and going unchecked for symptoms, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing. "If travel restrictions would be imposed we hope they are as short-lived as possible to try to continue the normal flow of life," he added.

300 returnees from virus-hit Wuhan to be kept at Army quarantine facility near Gurgaon

The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar (situated nearly 18 km from Gurgaon) to keep around 300 Indian students being evacuated from China's Hubei province in view of the outbreak of coronavirus.

Officials said the Indian Army has created the facility near Manesar where the students can be monitored for any signs of infection for a duration of two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members.

An Air India flight was sent to Wuhan on Friday to bring back the Indian students stuck in Hubei province, the epicentre of coronavirus.

Singapore to suspend entry to travelers, including transit passengers, with recent China travel history

Singapore said today it was suspending entry to travelers with a recent history of travel to China and suspending visas for Chinese passport holders, to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The ban, effective from Saturday, will exempt Singaporean residents and work permit holders, the health ministry said, adding that it also will apply to those transiting through Singapore, a busy global travel hub.

East African airlines suspend China flights due to coronavirus

Kenya Airways and RwandAir said today that they had suspended all flights to and from China until further notice after a virus outbreak killed more than 200 people in China and spread to 18 countries.

Kenya's health ministry said samples from a person suspected of having the new coronavirus sent to South Africa for further tests had turned out negative.

The patient, a student in the epicentre of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, China, has been isolated in a Nairobi hospital having arrived on Tuesday on a Kenya Airways flight from Guangzhou in southern China.

"We have temporarily suspended all flights to and from Guangzhou starting Friday until further notice," the airline said in a statement.

Special Air India flight with 5 doctors to evacuate Indians from China

Amid the coronavirus outbreak in China, the Air India will send its special flight from New Delhi to China's Wuhan along with a team of five doctors to evacuate the Indian nationals, officials said on Friday.

A senior Air India official said that the national carrier's Boeing B747 aircraft with a capacity of 423 passengers will fly from New Delhi at 12.30 pm for Wuhan in China and then return on Saturday morning around 2 am.

Air India's jumbo jet B747 will fly along with a team of five doctors to screen the Indians stranded in Wuhan before allowing them to board the special flight.

UK confirms two cases of Coronavirus

Two patients in England, who are members of the same family, tested positive for coronavirus, the government said. The patients are receiving specialist care in Newcastle.

“We are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread," Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said. The government put the mortality rate from the new coronavirus at 2%.

Meanwhile, all passengers who boarded a flight from Wuhan are well, the UK government said. Travelers from China with symptoms are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

China to offer force majeure support amid virus impact

China said that it will offer force majeure support to companies affected by a deadly novel coronavirus and the disruptions caused by trying to stop its spread.

Companies unable to honor international trade contracts or carry out their work on time can apply to obtain certificates needed to declare force majeure, according to the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade’s website. The trade council also said it will step up provision of services to enterprises during the epidemic.

Passengers allowed to leave cruise ship after Italy virus scare

Passengers who’ve been kept aboard a cruise ship near Rome due to concerns over a virus outbreak began disembarking, even as two cases of coronavirus were confirmed elsewhere in Italy.

Some 7,000 passengers on the ship, owned by Carnival Corp., had been held in the port of Civitavecchia since Thursday morning, after a passenger came down with fever and respiratory symptoms. Subsequent examinations showed the illness was not coronavirus.

“We’re free," disembarking passengers chanted at the port Friday morning. Some people on the ship had taken to social media to protest the lockdown and lack of information on board.

Britain will send another plane to Wuhan if necessary

Britain will send another plane to the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan to pick up British citizens if necessary, senior minister Michael Gove said on Friday.

"If we need to do so, then we will," Gove said, when asked by Sky News if Britain would send a second aircraft.

Earlier on Friday a plane carrying 83 British and 27 foreign nationals flew out Wuhan, the centre of a coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 200 people and infected more than 9,000, the British government said.

US warns citizens against travel to China as virus toll tops 213

The United States warned Americans not to travel to China as the death toll from a new virus reached 213 on Friday and the WHO declared a global health emergency.

“Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means," the department said in the advisory, which was Level 4, the most severe travel warning category.

The Level 4 advisory puts China among several nations that the US warns its citizens to avoid, including North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Iran and Somalia.

Earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump wrote about efforts to combat the infection in a Twitter post. “Working closely with China and others on Coronavirus outbreak. Only 5 people in US, all in good recovery," he said

Goldman Sachs says virus outbreak to hit US, China growth

The coronavirus outbreak is likely to hit China's economic growth by 0.4 percentage point in 2020 and will potentially drag the US economy lower as well, due to lower tourism and exports, investment bank Goldman Sachs said on Friday.

The bank estimates a 0.4 percentage-point hit to the US economy in the first quarter, but said growth would likely rebound in the following quarter "leaving only a small net drag on US full-year 2020 growth".

Goldman Sachs revised down China's 2020 GDP growth expectations to 5.5% from 5.9%.

Air India to evacuate Indians from Wuhan amid global emergency

An Air-India flight on Friday will depart for China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, to start evacuating Indian nationals.

“The national carrier once again comes to the rescue – this time to evacuate Indians from Wuhan, the site of the outbreak of the coronavirus," said Ashani Lohani, chairman and managing director of state-run Air India. "This mission begins today with a Jumbo 747 operating between Delhi and Wuhan."

An Air India spokesperson said the flight is scheduled to depart at 12.30pm Friday and will return by 1am-2 am on Saturday. The aircraft would be able to evacuate around 400 people from the Chinese city, and will have on board a crew of 30, including doctors and other medical staff, said the spokesperson. The flight would carry masks and jackets for everyone on board.

Coronavirus contagion could adversely impact India's trade, economy: Experts

A prolonged coronavirus contagion in China could adversely impact India’s trade and economy as it has become highly dependent on its northern neighbor, with exponential expansion of trade linkages since the outbreak of the SARS virus in China in 2002-03 that caused 349 deaths.

In 2002-03, India’s total trade with China stood at a paltry $4.8 billion which has since expanded more than 18 times to have touched $87 billion in 2018-19. India exported mostly raw materials and industrial inputs to China such as organic chemicals ($3.2 billion), mineral fuels ($2.8 billion), cotton ($1.8 billion), ores ($1.2 billion), plastic materials ($1.1 billion) in 2018-19. On the other hand, the major items imported by India during the period include electronic items ($20.6 billion), machinery ($13.4 billion), organic chemicals ($8.6 billion) and plastic items ($2.7 billion).

WHO declares coronavirus as Public Health Emergency of International Concern

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as the outbreak continues to spread outside Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus.

The decision was taken in the second consecutive meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of coronavirus in China with exportations to other countries.

The declaration serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body thinks the situation is “serious".

Hong Kong schools expected to stay closed until 2 March

The government is expected to soon announce extending the school holiday for non-tertiary students to March 2 amid the novel coronavirus, local news site HK01 reports, citing unidentified people.

Earlier, several universities including Hong Kong Polytechnic University, University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University said they would suspend on-campus teaching until March 2.

Japan raises travel warning, bars virus patients from entering the country

Japan moved to strengthen its travel warning for China and to bar patients infected with the new coronavirus from entering the country, after criticism that its initial response to the deadly outbreak was too lax.

The government is set to advise that non-urgent trips to China should be canceled. It also plans to bring forward an order allowing compulsory hospitalization to Feb. 1, earlier than Feb. 7 as originally planned, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament.

Virus patients will be barred from entering the country from the same date, he added.

Countries worry about evacuee contagion, economic impact

Tensions are rising across the region as governments bring their citizens home from the outbreak epicenter in China, risking greater exposure among domestic populations.

Australia plans to isolate its evacuees from Wuhan on Christmas Island, better known for its grim history as a detention center for would-be asylum seekers, while the US flew its citizens from the virus-stricken Chinese city to an isolated military base in California.

Also in Australia, airport security workers threatened to strike unless given protective equipment to guard against the virus. Some airport staff have been barred from wearing protective gear such as face masks to avoid upsetting customers, the United Workers Union said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, Thailand fretted about the impact to its economy, of which a fifth is reliant on tourism. Chinese tourists spent $18 billion in Thailand last year -- without this source of spending, the country could fall into recession.

Taiwan president seeks inclusion in WHO efforts

Taiwan is afraid of being left out after the WHO declared a global health emergency.

“As a major transportation hub in the Asia Pacific region, Taiwan must be included in efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak," Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Twitter post Friday. Taiwan currently has nine confirmed cases of the virus.

The United Nations agency has excluded Taiwan from its annual summit for the past several years amid pressure from China.

“Taiwan’s absence from the WHO creates a serious gap in the global health network," Tsai said. “Our medical & public health personnel have both expertise & experience, and our people deserve an equal right to health."

Study sees early signs of human transmission

The coronavirus was spreading from person to person earlier than reported, according to a study by Chinese scientists.

Among 47 cases that occurred during 2019, 14 had been in contact with another person with respiratory symptoms, indicating likely human-to-human transmission, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a study published Jan. 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their analysis of the first 425 cases in Wuhan found that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days.

“There is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December," Qun Li and colleagues said. Official confirmation of such transmissions weren’t reported until weeks later.

US has first human-to-human transmission

A woman in Chicago who had been diagnosed last week with the coronavirus infected her husband, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, the first case of human-to-human transmission to occur in the US.

Both patients are in their 60s and are doing well while being kept in isolation, CDC officials said on the call.The agency said the virus is not spreading widely and that the risk to the US public remains low.

European airlines halt China flights

European carriers led by British Airways said they’re temporarily quitting China as the deadly coronavirus spreads, following decisions by US carriers to limit flights to the country.

BA took the most dramatic step, saying Thursday it will cease flights to Beijing and Shanghai until March 1 after acting on U.K. Foreign Office advice. Iberia, its Spanish sister carrier at IAG SA, is also suspending operations, while Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Air France and SAS AB said they’ll exit China until Feb. 9.

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