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NEARLY 10,000 FLIGHTS SUSPENDED

China virus death toll tops 250; US imposes border curbs

WASHINGTON, February 1, 2020

The number of deaths from a coronavirus epidemic in China has risen to 259, as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and US announced new border curbs on foreign nationals who have been in China.
 
The WHO, had in a rare move, declared the novel coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). 
 
The global health body defines a PHEIC as an “extraordinary event” that “constitute[s] a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” and “potentially require[s] a coordinated international response.” 
 
Since that framework was defined in 2005—two years after another coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), spread through China—it has been used only six times: for outbreaks of “swine flu” in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola in 2014, Zika virus in 2016, Ebola in 2019 and, now, coronavirus in 2020.
 
A PHEIC is meant to mobilize international response to an outbreak. It’s an opportunity for the WHO, with guidance from its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, to implement “non-binding but practically and politically significant measures that can address travel, trade, quarantine, screening, treatment. 
 
WHO can also set global standards of practice,” the organization tweeted.
 
The global health body acknowledges that the disease now represents a risk beyond China and nations can then decide whether to shut their borders, cancel flights or screen people arriving at ports of entry.
 
In a prompt move, the Trump administration has begun imposing temporary travel restrictions that bar entry into the US by any foreign national who has travelled to China in the past 14 days, officials said on Friday.
 
The restrictions, a reaction to the coronavirus epidemic, will be put into place at 5 pm on Sunday. 
 
The US yesterday (January 31) declared the coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 12,000 people and has spread to America and 21 other countries, a public heath emergency, reported New York Times.
 
Friday’s action exempts immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents.
 
In addition, officials said, any US citizen returning home who has been in the Hubei province of China within the past 14 days — believed to be the virus’s incubation period — will be quarantined for up to 14 days. Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is in Hubei, it stated.
 
Those who have been to other parts of China within the past 14 days will be subject to “proactive entry screening” and up to 14 days of monitoring and self-quarantine, it added.
 
Meanwhile airlines across the globe have swung into action with nearly 10,000 flights already suspended since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium.
 
Many nations have put on special charter flights to repatriate citizens from China.
 
Amid this panic, Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization representative for China, said trade and travel restrictions were not needed.
 
“We would want countries to focus on the mitigation efforts of identifying the possible importation of cases and responding to any domestic outbreak,” Galea told Reuters on Saturday.
 
Around two dozen countries have reported confirmed cases of the virus, but the vast majority of those infected remain in China.
 
Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand said the international travel bans had forced them to suspend their direct flights to China from February 9.
 
Cities across China have continued to implement special measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pathogen. Tianjin, a city in northern China with around 15 million people, said all schools and businesses would be suspended until further notice.
 
A senior leadership group tasked with handling the crisis promised to take action to prevent a big surge in the number of people traveling after the extended Lunar New Year holiday.
 
The team led by Premier Li Keqiang said they would coordinate with local governments to stagger the times when people are asked to go back to work.
 
However, Coronavirus anger seems to be boiling over in China.
 
One week into a lockdown, anger and anxiety deepened in China as the central province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak endured shortages of hospital beds, medical supplies and doctors, reported the New York Times.
 
In a sign of growing frustration, a relative of a patient infected with the virus beat up a doctor at a hospital in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, the state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday, citing the police. 
 
At the same time, hospitals in the region renewed pleas to the public for help to replenish their supplies, which were fast disappearing. The shortages have become especially severe in Huanggang, a city of seven million not far from Wuhan, where some medical staff members were wearing raincoats and garbage bags as shoe covers to protect against infection, according to Yicai, a financial news site.
 
 
 
 



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