Skip to content
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies. You can change your settings or learn more here.
OK
Members of a military medical team take over the work from a medical worker at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital
Members of a military medical team take over the work from a medical worker at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Coronavirus: Around 12,000 cases of infection as death toll rises to 259

The UK Foreign Office said that it was withdrawing its staff members based in China.
Feb 1st 2020, 9:52 AM 29,955 50

Updated Feb 1st 2020, 5:41 PM

CHINA FACED DEEPENING isolation over its coronavirus epidemic today as the death toll soared to 259, with the United States and Australia leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans.

There are just under 12,000 confirmed cases of the infection, which is officially called 2019-nCov, Chinese authorities said.

With the UK, Russia and Sweden among the countries confirming their first infections, the virus has now spread to over 25 nations, sending governments scurrying to limit their exposure.

The UK’s Foreign Office said today that it’s withdrawing staff from China just hours after flying dozens of UK nationals, and three Irish people, home from Wuhan. The UK government said that essential staff would remain to continue “critical work”, but warned that its ability to provide help to Britons in the country may be “limited”.

No deaths have been reported outside China. 

Travel bans against China

Today, Vietnam joined other countries in imposing travel bans, by suspending flights to China and suspending new tourist visas for Chinese nationals and foreigners who have travelled to China in the past two weeks.  

The United States toughened its stance yesterday by declaring a national emergency, temporarily barring entry to foreigners who had been in China within the past two weeks.

“Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents, who have travelled in China within the last 14 days 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.

Similar steps have been taken by countries including Italy, Singapore, and China’s northern neighbour Mongolia.

The United States, Japan, Britain, Germany and other nations already had advised their citizens not to travel to China.

‘Unkind’

Beijing, which insists it can contain the virus, began to show impatience over the growing ostracism, with the foreign ministry calling Washington’s earlier advice against travel to China “unkind”.

“Certainly it is not a gesture of goodwill,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The US emergency declaration also requires Americans returning from the ground zero Chinese province of Hubei to be placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine, and health screening for US citizens coming from other parts of China.

The virus emerged in early December and has been traced to a market in Hubei’s capital Wuhan that sold wild animals.

It spread globally on the wings of a Lunar New Year holiday rush that sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel domestically and overseas.

Mea culpa

With public anger mounting in China, Wuhan’s top official admitted late yesterday that authorities there had acted too slowly.

“If strict control measures had been taken earlier the result would have been better than now,” Ma Guoqiang, the Communist Party chief for Wuhan, told state media.

Ma said he was “in a state of guilt, remorse and self-reproach”.

Wuhan officials have been criticised online for withholding information about the outbreak until late December despite knowing of it weeks earlier.

China finally lurched into action more than a week ago, effectively quarantining whole cities in Hubei and tens of millions of people.

Unprecedented safeguards have also been imposed nationwide include extending the holiday, postponing school restarts and tight health screening on travellers nationwide.

But the toll keeps mounting at an ever-increasing pace, with health authorities on Saturday saying 46 more people had died in the preceding 24 hours, all but one in Hubei.

Another 2,102 new infections also were confirmed, bringing the total to nearly 12,000 — far higher than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak of 2002-03.

SARS, which is caused by a pathogen similar to the new coronavirus and also originated in China, killed 774 people worldwide, most of them in China or Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency on Thursday but did not advise international trade or travel restrictions.

It warned yesterday that closing borders was probably ineffective in halting transmission and could accelerate the virus’s spread.

But authorities around the world pressed ahead with preventive measures.

‘Latent racism’

Citing a likely “sharper rise” in infections, Singapore yesterday barred arrivals and transit passengers from mainland China.

Mongolia on Saturday toughened earlier restrictions by implementing a ban on any arrivals from its huge southern neighbour until 2 March.

Impoverished Papua New Guinea went so far as to bar all visitors from “Asian ports” last week.

Thai health officials yesterday said a taxi driver became the kingdom’s first case of human-to-human transmission.

Thailand joins China, Germany, Japan, France and the United States with confirmed domestic infections.

The health crisis has dented China’s international image, putting Chinese nationals in difficult positions abroad, amid complaints of racism.

In one striking example, more than 40,000 workers at a vast Chinese-controlled industrial park in Indonesia – which also employs 5,000 staff from China – were put under quarantine, the facility said yesterday.

On the same day, China flew overseas Hubei residents back to the centre of the outbreak in Wuhan on chartered planes from Thailand and Malaysia, citing “practical difficulties” the passengers had encountered overseas.

World markets tumbled again yesterday due to the uncertainty hovering over the world’s second-largest economy, a key driver of global growth.

Growing numbers of major airlines have suspended or reduced China flights, while corporate names from Toyota to McDonald’s and Starbucks have shut Chinese stores or production lines.

Countries have scrambled to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan, with hundreds of US, Japanese, British, French, South Korean, Indian and Mongolian citizens evacuated so far, and more countries planning airlifts.

Russia said it would evacuate more than 2,500 of its citizens holidaying on China’s Hainan island, far from the epicentre.

 - © AFP 2020

TheJournal.ie's coronavirus newsletter cuts through the misinformation and noise with the clear facts you need to make informed choices. Sign up here


Send a tip to the author

AFP

COMMENTS (50)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a comment

     
    cancel reply
    Back to top