The death toll from a new virus in China rose to 259 on Saturday and a World Health Organization official said other governments should prepare for “control of domestic outbreaks” if the disease spreads in their countries.
Beijing criticized the Washington order banning the entry of most foreigners who visited China in the last two weeks. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced similar measures on Saturday, after Japan and Singapore.
Meanwhile, South Korea and India expelled hundreds of their citizens from Wuhan, the city in the center of an area where some 50 million people are prevented from leaving in an antivirus effort.
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The evacuees entered quarantine for two weeks. Indonesia also sent a plane.
The number of confirmed cases in China increased to 11,791, exceeding the number in the outbreak of SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2002-03.
That statement “changed the change” of a cautious attitude to recommend that governments prepare for the possibility of the virus spreading, said the WHO representative in Beijing, Gauden Galea. Most of the cases reported so far have been people who visited China or their relatives.
The agency acted out of concern for the poorest countries that might not be equipped to respond, Galea said. This statement requires a coordinated international response and can contribute more money and resources.
WHO said it was especially concerned that some cases abroad involved the transmission from person to person.
“Countries must prepare for possible importation in order to identify cases as soon as possible and to be prepared for internal outbreak control, if that happens,” Galea told The Associated Press.
On Friday, the United States declared a public health emergency and President Donald Trump signed an order prohibiting the entry of foreign citizens, who are not immediate relatives of US citizens and permanent residents, who visited China in the last 14 days, which according to Scientists is the virus. longer incubation period.
China criticized US controls, which said it contradicted WHO’s call to avoid travel bans, and “hostile comments” that Beijing was not cooperating.
“As WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the United States hastened to go in the opposite direction. It is certainly not a gesture of goodwill, “said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
WHO Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that despite the emergency declaration, “there is no reason to take measures that unnecessarily interfere with travel and international trade.”
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party postponed the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, for an unspecified “appropriate grade” and called on the public there to stay at home.
On Saturday, another closed city in Hubei, Huanggang, prohibited almost all of its residents from leaving their homes under the strictest controls imposed so far. The government said only one person from each household could go out to buy food once every two days.
“Others are not allowed to leave, except to receive medical treatment, perform epidemic prevention and control work or work in supermarkets and pharmacies,” he said in an announcement.
China’s increasingly drastic controls against disease began with the January 23 suspension of airplane, bus and train links to Wuhan, an industrial center of 11 million people.
The blockade has extended to the surrounding cities. The holiday, the busiest annual travel season in China, ends Sunday in the rest of the country after an extension of three days to postpone the return to factories and offices of hundreds of millions of workers.
The official Xinhua news agency said that people in Hubei who work outside the province also received a prolonged holiday.
The party’s decision “highlighted the importance of preventing and controlling the epidemic among travelers,” Xinhua said.
Americans returning from China will be able to enter the country, but they will face screening tests and must take 14 days of self-examination.
Those returning from Hubei province will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Starting on Sunday, the United States will direct flights from China to seven major airports where passengers can be controlled.
Also on Friday, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suspended all flights between the United States and China. Other carriers, such as British Airways, Finnair and Cathay Pacific of Hong Kong, have also canceled or reduced service to mainland China. Vietnam suspended all flights to China.
The US order followed a travel notice for Americans to consider leaving China. Japan and Germany also advised against non-essential trips to China and Britain, with the exception of Hong Kong and Macao.
A plane carrying Indians from Wuhan landed on Saturday in New Delhi. The government said they would be quarantined in a nearby city, Manesar. Sri Lanka also brought out 33 more citizens and promised to remove the remaining 204 students.
A special flight brought 312 Bangladeshis from Wuhan, including eight who were hospitalized at high temperatures. The government says that some 5,000 Bangladeshis study in China.
A Turkish military transport carrying 42 people departed from Wuhan to Ankara on Saturday. According to reports, they showed no signs of infection.
The Kremlin said that as of Saturday, Russian air force planes will be used to evacuate Russians from areas of China most severely affected by the virus.
The German Defense Minister said that a plane carrying 102 citizens back to Germany was denied permission to land and refuel in Moscow because of what the Russians said was a lack of capacity and had to divert to Helsinki .
An EU evacuation flight from Wuhan was scheduled for Saturday.
South Korea’s second evacuation flight landed in Seoul with 330 people from Wuhan. They should be examined for fever before being taken to two quarantine centers.
South Korea also reported on its twelfth case of the virus, which appeared to be a person-to-person transmission.
At least 24 countries have reported cases since China informed WHO about the new virus in late December.
The death rate in China is decreasing, but the number of confirmed cases will continue to grow because there are thousands of specimens of suspected cases still to be analyzed, WHO Galea said.
“The lethality index is set at a much lower level than we were reporting three, now four weeks ago,” he said.
Both the new virus and SARS are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that cause the common cold. Experts say there is evidence that the new virus is spreading among people in China.
Although scientists expect to see limited transmission of the virus among people with relatives or other close contact, they are concerned about cases of infection that spread to people who may have less exposure.
In Japan, a tour guide and a bus driver were infected after escorting two groups of tourists from Wuhan. The country reported four new cases, including a woman in her 20s who worked on the same tourist bus and another asymptomatic person, for a total of 20.
In Germany, five employees of a German auto parts supplier became ill after the visit of a Chinese colleague, including two who had no direct contact with the woman. He showed no symptoms until his flight back to China.
On Friday, Germany confirmed a sixth case, a son of one of the people already infected. Vietnam confirmed one more case for a total of six, and on Saturday Australia counted its 12 infections.
Spain reported its first case detected, a German man who had close contact with an infected person in Germany and then traveled to the Canary Islands with some friends. Four friends who were hospitalized with him have shown no symptoms. In the United States, health officials issued a two-week quarantine order for the 195 Americans evacuated this week from Wuhan.
It was the first time a federal quarantine was ordered since the 1960s, when it was promulgated out of concern for smallpox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
None of the Americans housed in a military base in southern California have shown signs of illness, but infected people do not show symptoms immediately and can transmit the virus before they appear ill.
Associated Press writers Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi, Tong-hyung Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Hau Dinh in Hanoi, Vietnam, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, They contributed to this report.