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Jumat, 31 Januari 2020

Live updates: Coronavirus deaths soar as U.S. warns against China travel - The Washington Post

Glenn Hunt EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Flight attendants in protective face masks walk through Brisbane airport in Australia on Friday. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases soared to almost 10,000, with more than 213 deaths recorded in China.

As the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak passed 200 Friday, all of the fatalities in China, the State Department told Americans not to travel to the country and advised those in China to consider departing. Here is what we know:

●The United States has issued a “Level 4” travel advisory for China, its highest level of caution, over the rapidly spreading outbreak. Japan followed suit, urging citizens to avoid non-urgent trips, while Singapore banned Chinese nationals from entering or transiting through the city.

●Two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Britain, and the first case in Russia was confirmed. South Korea reported an 11th case.

●China, anxious to shield Communist Party leaders from blame, dismissed a public health official over her handling of the crisis.

●The World Health Organization has declared the virus a global public health emergency, requiring states to ramp up their responses.

●In Hong Kong, officials closed schools until March as the number of confirmed cases rose to 12, and residents faced supply shortages.

WHO declares global emergency | U.S. reports first person-to-person transmission | Trump under growing pressure | U.S. airports screen travelers | Mapping the spread

10:46 AM: Cruz, Buchanan call for China travel ban

WASHINGTON — Two members of Congress have called for the United States to issue travel bans and flight suspensions as global panic over the coronavirus outbreak in China deepens.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who is chairman of the subcommittee on aviation and space, urged the White House on Friday to implement a ban on travel to and from China, as well as to put in place more stringent screenings at U.S. airports.

“Given the severity of the coronavirus in China and its rapid spread across the region, as well as the mounting public fear, it's imperative that this disease is contained,” Cruz said in a statement. “The administration should take every precaution in preventing additional cases from arriving in the United States, including temporarily halting flights to and from China and implementing additional screenings at all U.S. airports.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) on Friday also called on the administration to order similar travel limitations, saying in a statement that “restricting travelers from China is a reasonable response to this growing threat.”

U.S. public health experts have stressed that the risk of an outbreak of the likes seen in China happening here remains extremely low. In contrast, people in America are far more likely to contract or die of the flu. Public health officials recommend basic practices such as washing hands and getting the flu vaccine to lessen the likelihood of getting the flu.

By: Miriam Berger

10:40AM: Chinese drone scolds people for not wearing face masks

WASHINGTON — If you're in China and walking around without a face mask, prepare to be scolded — by a sassy, discourteous drone.

The English-language edition of the Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the ruling Communist Party, released footage on Twitter on Friday of relentless drones calling out instructions as they hover above people disobeying health protocols amid the outbreak.

“Yes, auntie, this is the drone speaking to you,” a voice booms over an elderly Chinese woman, according to the Global Times’s English translation. “You shouldn't walk about without wearing a mask.”

“Yes you'd better go back home and don't forget to wash your hands,” it calls out to her again as she starts to walk away.

But the drone isn't done.

“You see we've been telling people to stay at home but you still wander outside,” it adds, following the woman as she hurries down a dirt road, occasionally glancing back up at the device in the sky. “Now a drone is watching you.”

The drone moves on to its next target: a man without a face mask, working on a cart in the snow. The voice calls out to him, asking why he's working outside. “Why do you always come outside?” it asks. “You can sort this out in a few days.” He grins up at the device, but the drone is not joking around. “Don't laugh,” the voice says. “Now get on your cart and go home immediately.”

In some city centers, the drone is also calling out to people to stay inside, repeating that China is in “unusual times.”

“The coronavirus is very serious,” the drone tells a young boy walking alone. “Run!” He sprints down the street as the drone speaks up again. “Don't come outside,” it adds. “Staying at home is contributing to society.”

By: Siobhán O’Grady

10:25 AM: Major African carriers cancel flights; Myanmar turns China Southern plane away

WASHINGTON — On Friday, two major African carriers, Kenya Airways and RwandAir, said they were suspending all flights to and from China amid concerns that passengers could be carrying the virus.

There have been no cases of the virus in Africa, despite regular flights between major African and Chinese business hubs. Kenya Airways normally flies to Guangzhou each day, with a stopover in Bangkok. The first leg of that trip will continue as usual. RwandAir normally flies to Guangzhou three times a week. Earlier this week, Air Tanzania postponed upcoming plans to launch new regular flights to China.

Other flight paths have also been disrupted.

On Friday, Myanmar forced almost all passengers on a China Southern flight that originated in Guangzhou to turn back, after a passenger on board began displaying symptoms similar to those of coronavirus. The passenger disembarked in Yangon and is being treated in a hospital there.

Two Myanmar citizens who were on board the flight were allowed to enter the country but will be isolated for two weeks. Everyone else flew back to China, although none of them were displaying symptoms and it was not immediately clear whether the passenger who became sick was infected with coronavirus.

By: Siobhán O’Grady

10:24 AM: China's foreign ministry criticizes U.S. for travel restrictions, ‘unfriendly comments’

WASHINGTON — China's Ministry for Foreign Affairs has criticized U.S. officials for making “unfriendly comments” during the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting that some Americans were making remarks that were “neither factual nor appropriate.”

In English-language messages on Twitter, the ministry's spokesman also criticized a U.S. warning against travel to China. “In disregard of WHO recommendation against travel restrictions, the US went the opposite way,” the account said. “Where is its empathy?”

The United States has issued a travel advisory urging Americans not to visit China, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking on Fox Business on Thursday, said the coronavirus could “help” to bring jobs to the United States because companies would be moving operations away from affected areas.

By: Adam Taylor

10:12 AM: China to repatriate Wuhan residents, citing ‘practical difficulties’ that they've encountered abroad

WASHINGTON — Chinese authorities are preparing to repatriate citizens from Wuhan who recently traveled out of China due to the “practical difficulties recently encountered” abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry said officials are planning to charter flights and bring back residents from Hubei province who left before travel restrictions were put in place “as soon as possible.”

Chinese authorities have placed some 50 million people in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan under quarantine in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Nonetheless, authorities said some 5 million people traveled out of the area before the restrictions but after the disease had already started spreading.

As the virus has reached other countries, international air carriers have canceled or cut down on flights to China, while some neighboring countries, like Russia and North Korea, have sealed off borders or limited entry from China. That in turn has made it harder for Chinese people abroad to return.

The virus has also unleashed a global wave of fear and uncertainty — and incidents of racism and xenophobia toward Chinese people. Chinese students and tourists abroad have reported incidents of being denied entry to establishments and scapegoated as carriers of the disease just because of their nationality.

By: Miriam Berger

10:03 AM: Global markets sink on coronavirus fears

WASHINGTON — Global stocks sank Friday as investors confronted slowing economic growth in the United States and Europe, which could be compounded by the coronavirus outbreak that has forced China and its powerful economy into lockdown.

The deadly virus presents a huge threat to the global economy, as it paralyzes China's workforce and dampens its powerful manufacturing industry, while forcing global firms with roots in the country to freeze operations and seek out ways to reorient supply chains. From an economic perspective, the outbreak's timing is especially punishing, dragging down growth prospects and taking a bite out of corporate earnings just when investors had hoped for a boost after the truce in the U.S.-China trade war.

“Companies are taking decisive action over their exposure to China, such as canceling flights, closing stores and shutting factories,” Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, wrote Thursday in a note to investors. “It is already clear that earnings will be hit as a result of the coronavirus, and we still don't know when the health incident will be contained.”

China's markets are closed for an extended holiday, but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.7 percent. Europe's benchmark Stoxx 600 index was down 0.4 percent in midday trading, and Britain's FTSE 100 was off 0.7 percent on the long-awaited official day of Brexit.

Read more here: “Global markets sink on slowing growth, coronavirus fears

By: Taylor Telford

9:48 AM: North Korea, already isolated, takes further measures to seal itself off from outbreak

SEOUL — North Korea is taking all-out measures to seal itself off from the outside world as the coronavirus spreads to areas near the country's border with China.

North Korea has not reported any case of coronavirus infection, but scores of cases have been confirmed in the Chinese provinces of Liaoning and Jilin, which border the isolated nation.

North Korea's official party daily newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, ran a story Friday titled “A big strength to prevent the novel coronavirus.” The story cited the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, calling for a development in health care for the North Korean people. Rodong Sinmun stressed the “very important duties” of North Korean authorities “to completely block the novel coronavirus from entering our country.”

North Korea announced that air and train routes between North Korea and China are temporarily suspended as of Friday, according to travel advisories issued Thursday by the British government and the Indian Embassy in North Korea. The travel advisories said all foreigners entering North Korea from China, or from Russia and having passed through China, will be quarantined for a month.

North and South Korea have agreed to temporarily shut down the joint liaison office in the border city of Kaesong in a move to fend off any further spread of the virus. Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Friday that a new hotline has been opened to carry on the liaison effort between the two Koreas.

Via the hotline, North Korea has notified the South that it has postponed plans to demolish South Korean facilities at its Mount Kumgang resort to prevent the virus spreading.

By: Min Joo Kim

9:40 AM: India bans export of face masks, evacuates nationals

NEW DELHI — India’s Commerce Ministry banned the export of personal protection equipment, including N95 face masks and other protective clothing, in an order issued Friday.

The move follows a spike in demand for such products as cases of coronavirus spread to 22 countries outside mainland China. Indian authorities have confirmed one coronavirus case in the southern state of Kerala.

India also joined a growing list of countries evacuating nationals from China as coronavirus cases continued to surge in the country. A flight from Wuhan carrying more than 350 people, many of them students, is scheduled to land in New Delhi early Saturday morning local time. Incoming passengers will be quarantined for 14 days in Manesar, 55 miles outside the capital, New Delhi.

Two camps have been set up by the country’s armed forces, which will manage the facilities along with the Health Ministry. Those showing symptoms of coronavirus will be shifted to a hospital for treatment.

By: Niha Masih

9:35 AM: Risk of infection remains very low in Britain, chief medical officer says

WASHINGTON — After the United Kingdom confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus Friday, the country’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said that the risk of infection there remained low — but that the chance of China losing control of the epidemic was his main concern.

“The risk comes from the situation in China going out of control, despite best efforts by the Chinese government, and spreading more widely,” Whitty said. “So that is the thing for which we are planning, that is the risk.”

Public health officials around the world have grappled with how to keep people continually informed about the outbreak, while at the same time not stoking undue panic. So far, the disease and deaths from it have remained centered in China, where authorities initially did not share news about the emerging new virus, which consequently made it harder to control as potentially infected populations continued to move around.

In contrast, countries such as the U.K. have put in place preemptive screening and testing procedures for high-risk travelers, techniques that public health officials say can dramatically reduce the risk of an outbreak.

By: Miriam Berger

9:34 AM: Germany confirms child of patient has virus

BERLIN — The number of coronavirus cases in Germany increased to six Friday, as authorities confirmed that the child of a patient in Bavaria had been diagnosed.

All five infected adults work for Webasto, an automotive supplier near Munich. Their condition is stable, authorities said.

A 33-year-old man became the country’s first confirmed coronavirus patient Monday, after being infected by a female business visitor from Shanghai.

She and the 33-year-old met at a workshop in the offices of the German automotive supplier.

Authorities said Tuesday that around 40 individuals had come into close contact with him and the Chinese visitor. Webasto temporarily closed its headquarters near Munich on Wednesday.

By: Rick Noack

8:41 AM: Italian government sets six-month state of emergency

ROME — The Italian government said it will impose a six-month state of emergency, as the country confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus.

The declaration — set to be officially announced later Friday — will free up funding and resources aimed at preventing the virus from spreading.

The Italian move came in response to WHO’s declaration of a “public health emergency of international concern,” which requires countries to ramp up their crisis response.

“In light of WHO’s international emergency we have activated all of the precautionary legal tools allowed by our country in such cases, just like in 2003 with the SARS outbreak,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement.

Italy also suspended “all plane connections between Italy and China, until further notice,” according to a statement by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority.

States of emergency are declared relatively frequently in Italy, compared to other major European nations. A similar emergency was declared in Venice in November, when floods engulfed the city.

Even though both France and Germany have reported more coronavirus cases than Italy, neither have taken steps comparable to the Italian declaration.

By: Stefano Pitrelli and Rick Noack

8:10 AM: First coronavirus cases confirmed in Russia

MOSCOW — The first two coronavirus cases in Russia have been recorded, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told reporters Friday. Both are Chinese citizens, she said.

One case is in Russia’s Far East Transbaikal Territory, a region that borders China, while the other is in the Tyumen Region, about 1,300 miles east of Moscow.

Golikova also announced that most flights to and from China have been suspended. The exceptions are Aeroflot’s regular routes to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou and Chinese Airlines’ flight to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Other preventive measures include imposing stricter border-crossing restrictions for those traveling from Mongolia.

Russia has already closed its entire 2,600-mile border with China over concerns of a coronavirus outbreak, and the country put out an advisory Friday for citizens to avoid hugging, kissing and literally letting their hair down to prevent the spread of the disease.

Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer health regulator, suggested that people refrain from displays of affection, including handshakes, and secure their hair to limit contact with the face. It also advised people not to touch railings or doorknobs with bare hands.

Golikova said a decision on if to postpone an investment forum in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi amid concerns of a coronavirus outbreak will be made on Monday. The Russian Investment Forum is scheduled for Feb. 12, and one argument for pushing it back is the large Chinese delegation that was due to attend. Russia and China did $110 billion in trade last year.

By: Isabelle Khurshudyan

8:09 AM: Japan to tighten restrictions on Chinese nationals, Abe says

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday his government would bar foreigners from entering the country if they had been in the virus-hit Chinese city in the previous two weeks and would also exclude any Chinese national whose passport was issued by the provincial government of Hubei, media reports said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the plan to tighten immigration controls would be officially announced at midnight Japan time. In a statement, it said Abe told a specially constituted task force dealing with the crisis to implement measures so that “people infected with the virus will be denied entry into Japan.” Abe added that immigration controls must be strengthened even when the presence of the infection cannot be confirmed. Nikkei and NHK both reported details of the new plan.

Singapore on Friday banned all Chinese nationals from entering or transiting through the city-state, as well as any travelers who have been in mainland China in the past two weeks.

By: Simon Denyer

7:45 AM: China dismisses public health official

HONG KONG — Mindful of the political danger, China dismissed a public health official — her departure publicized by state mouthpieces in a rare, officially sanctioned show of accountability. Tang Zhihong, the health commission head of Huanggang, a city in Hubei province with the second-largest number of cases after Wuhan, was interviewed by a state broadcaster and fumbled her answers on the city’s response to the crisis. She could not state the number of available hotel beds in her city, nor its capacity to test for the virus.

After the clip was viewed some 40 million times, Tang was dismissed on Thursday night, becoming the first Chinese official to lose her job over the crisis. Her removal was carried in English by the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, which described her as “bumbling.”

By: Shibani Mahtani

7:30 AM: First cases confirmed in Britain add to global spread

HONG KONG: The outbreak, meanwhile, continues to spread. Britain on Friday confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus in England. “We have been preparing for U.K. cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately,” chief medical officer Chris Whitty said.

In South Korea, health officials reported an 11th case. Earlier Friday, 368 South Korean evacuees from Wuhan arrived home on a government-chartered flight. They were screened for symptoms, with 18 taken to the hospital and the remainder placed in quarantine.

Germany and India, which have each confirmed cases of coronavirus, were preparing to evacuate their citizens in Wuhan by plane. More than 350 names were featured on a list drawn up by Indian officials, while Germany was planning to retrieve about 100 people.

Elsewhere, Mongolia extended the closure of its border crossings with China until March 2 and said it would not allow Chinese citizens to enter the country. Pakistan said it was halting flights to and from China with immediate effect.

By: Shibani Mahtani

7:15 AM: Significant fallout for Chinese travelers globally

HONG KONG — The fallout has been significant for Chinese travelers globally. Dozens of airlines have suspended flights to the country and many companies have urged their staff to stay away. From Italy to the Philippines, hotels and ports have been turning away Chinese citizens over fears that they may be infected.

The response at times has morphed into outright racism. In France, the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus — “I am not a virus” — began trending, with those of Asian descent sharing their experiences of racism after a newspaper used the headline “Yellow Alert” to describe the outbreak.

Restaurants in South Korea have put up signs turning away Chinese clients. A student in Britain wrote in the Guardian that commuters have avoided sitting next to him because of his ethnicity. And after 7,000 people were held on a cruise ship in an Italian port over unfounded fears that two of its Chinese passengers were infected with the virus, officials have warned of latent and widespread racism against the Chinese community.

By: Shibani Mahtani

5:00 AM: State Department travel advisory an ‘extreme’ step, expert warns

HONG KONG — The State Department issued a travel advisory urging Americans not to visit China, the highest level of caution that is in place against only a handful of countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, as the numbers of those infected by the deadly coronavirus continued to soar.

The U.S. travel advisory, analysts say, represents a strong reaction from Washington amid rivalry with Beijing and pressure from the Trump administration for American businesses to shift production back home. The step is likely to have substantial implications for the Chinese economy, even though the warning is not mandatory for U.S. travelers to observe.

But James Zimmerman, partner in the Beijing office of law firm Perkins Coie LLP and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said in light of the departure arrangement, the State Department’s travel warning appeared “extreme.”

It is “premature and suspect, and overreacting at best,” he said Friday. “The advisory is a clear reflection of how fear and a lack of trustworthy information can be an insidious combination.”

By: Shibani Mahtani

foreign@washpost.com

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2020-01-31 16:09:00Z
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