Coronavirus outbreak: US, others nations tighten curbs on travel to China as virus toll hits 213

Hanghai/BeijingUpdated: Jan 31, 2020, 07:26 PM IST
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File photo: Coronavirus Photograph:(Reuters)

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Japan advised citizens to put off non-urgent travel to China, Iran's health minister urged a ban on all travellers from China and Britain reported its first two cases of the virus.

The United States and other countries tightened travel curbs on Friday and businesses said they were facing supply problems because of the coronavirus in China, a day after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

With the death toll rising to 213, all of them in China, the United States warned Americans not to travel to the Asian country, where the outbreak first appeared in Wuhan, capital of the central Hubei province.

Japan advised citizens to put off non-urgent travel to China, Iran's health minister urged a ban on all travellers from China and Britain reported its first two cases of the virus.

Singapore said it was suspending entry to travellers with a recent history of travel to China and suspending visas for Chinese passport holders. The ban, effective on Saturday, will also apply to those transiting Singapore, a major travel hub.

Italy's government decided to declare a state of emergency and stopped all air traffic with China after announcing its first cases, in two Chinese tourists.

Stock markets steadied slightly after the WHO praised China's efforts to contain the virus, following a tumble the previous day over a rising toll on the world's second-biggest economy and its global knock-on effect.

The outbreak could "reverberate globally", hitting supply chains, Moody's said, adding: "Global companies operating in the affected area may face output losses as a result of the evacuation of workers."


Hyundai Motor said it planned to halt South Korean production of a sport utility vehicle this weekend to cope with a supply disruption caused by the virus outbreak. Sangyong Motor said it would idle its plant in the South Korean city of Pyeongtaek from Feb. 4 to Feb. 12 for the same reason.

Home appliance maker Electrolux issued a similar warning. Alphabet Inc's Google and Sweden's IKEA have already suspended operations in China.

"Do not travel to China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan," the U.S. State Department said on its website, raising the warning for China to the same level as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also read: China coronavirus outbreak - Air India flight leaves for Wuhan to bring back Indian students

China has taken "the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures", a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in response to the WHO declaration. Hubei is in virtual lockdown.

"We have full confidence and capability to win this fight," Hua Chunying said in a statement.

But people were leaving and entering Hubei by foot over a bridge spanning the Yangtze river, a Reuters witness said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had commended China for its efforts and said the WHO was not recommending curbs on travel or trade with Beijing. A WHO spokesman said keeping borders open prevented illegal or unofficial border crossings.

The number of confirmed cases in China has risen beyond 9,800, Beijing's envoy to the United Nations in Vienna said.

There have been no deaths outside China, although 131 cases have been reported in 23 other countries and regions.

The WHO has reported at least eight instances of human-to-human transmission in four countries: the United States, Germany, Japan and Vietnam. Thailand said on Friday it too had a case of human-to-human transmission.

Unlocking secrets

Some airlines have stopped flying to mainland China, including Air France KLM SA, British Airways, Germany's Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic. Others have cut flights.

Japan's ANA Holdings said it may consider suspending China flights, media reported, after the airline said bookings for February flights leaving China had halved.

Several foreign governments evacuating citizens from Hubei are holding them in quarantine for the 14-day incubation period of the virus.

A plane carrying Britons and other Europeans left Wuhan on Friday, Britain's embassy said.

Japan, with 14 confirmed cases, said it would take special measures against the virus, including compulsory hospitalisation and the use of public funds for treatment. It has sent three flights to bring citizens home.


The first of four planned flights taking South Koreans home landed on Friday.

China is trying to bring home its tourists stranded abroad, with the state-run People's Daily saying two flights were sent on Thursday, to Thailand and Malaysia.

At least 15 Chinese municipalities and provinces have asked companies to extend the Lunar New Year holiday by a week, to Feb. 10.

China's statistics show just over 2% of infected people have died, suggesting the virus is less deadly than the coronaviruses responsible for the 2002-2003 outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and an episode of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

But economists fear its impact could be bigger than SARS, which killed about 800 people at an estimated cost of $33 billion to the global economy, since China's share of the world economy is now far greater.

With new cases being reported abroad, anti-China sentiment is emerging in some places and manufacturers are scrambling to meet demand for protective masks.