Hong Kong closes China borders as Wuhan coronavirus spreads

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What you need to know about the coronavirus

The death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus has topped 100, and authorities in China and across the world are working to contain the disease.

If you’re just joining us, here’s the latest:

  • The casualties: 106 people have died, all in mainland China. There are more than 4,515 confirmed cases across the country, and 70 confirmed cases outside China, including the US, Australia, France and Germany.
  • Accelerating spread: The virus appears to be spreading rapidly — there was a 65% jump in reported cases in mainland China in just one day. Germany and Japan have both confirmed cases of patients who tested positive for coronavirus, but who did not visit Wuhan themselves.
  • China’s response: Some 60 million people are under travel restrictions in Hubei province. The provincial capital, Wuhan, is under almost complete lockdown, with no movement in or out. In several cities, businesses and schools have been closed for the next few weeks.
  • Hospitals under strain: Hospital staff in Hubei province are struggling to cope with the number of patients, and supplies are running low. China has deployed 1,800 more medical personnel to the province to help.
  • Global response: Numerous countries, including the US, have stepped up airport screenings and warned their citizens not to travel to China. Some countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, have restricted Chinese tourists. Others have begun to plan for the evacuation of their citizens from Wuhan. Hong Kong is to stop issuing individual travel permits for travelers from mainland China.
  • Race to contain virus: Chinese and international scientists are studying the virus, tracking its origin and working on a vaccine — but it could take months for clinical trials to begin and more than a year before any such drug becomes available.
  • 1 hr 10 min ago

Hong Kong to stop issuing individual travel permits for mainland China travelers

Commuters wear facemasks as they buy tickets inside the high-speed train station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China.
Commuters wear facemasks as they buy tickets inside the high-speed train station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The Hong Kong government will stop issuing individual travel permits for travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

Individual travel permits allow residents of 49 cities on the mainland to “visit Hong Kong in their individual capacity.”

The latest announcement comes as part of Hong Kong’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

On Saturday, the China Association of Travel Services reported that all tours, including international ones, would be suspended starting Monday. China also stopped domestic group and packaged tours last Friday.

1 hr 58 min ago

Wuhan coronavirus has a rising death toll

The death toll from the outbreak has now topped 100, with more than 4,500 cases in mainland China.

Authorities in Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, earlier said an additional 1,300 cases had been confirmed, bringing the total in the region to over 2,700.

The majority of those are still in hospital, with more than 125 in critical condition. Between Sunday and Monday, there was a 65% jump in the number of reported cases in mainland China, from around 2,700 to over 4,500.

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a level 3 alert warning against “all nonessential travel to China” — its highest alert on a scale of 1 to 3.

1 hr 43 min ago

First suspected case of human-to-human transmission of novel coronavirus in Japan

Customers buy face masks from a drugstore in Tokyo's Akihabara district.
Customers buy face masks from a drugstore in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Japan’s health ministry confirmed two additional cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to six.

The sixth patient — a man in his 60s in western Japan — has no history of visiting Wuhan, but is a bus driver who drove tour groups from the central Chinese city for nine days, according to the health ministry.

This is the first case of suspected human-to-human transmission in Japan from someone who did not travel to Wuhan.

On Sunday, China announced a ban on outbound group travel as part of measures to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Why Hong Kong’s border closures are a big deal

Security personnel wear face masks inside the high-speed railway station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China on January 28, 2020
Security personnel wear face masks inside the high-speed railway station connecting Hong Kong to mainland China on January 28, 2020 Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the government will “temporarily” close some of its borders with mainland China and travel permits to mainland Chinese tourists will stop being issued.

Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Legacy of SARS: Memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002 and 2003 run deep in Hong Kong, where 1,750 people were infected and more than 280 died of the disease.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with ideal conditions for diseases to spread — in tightly packed subway train carriages and people living cheek by jowl in the city’s notoriously tiny apartments.

Initial suppression of information about the SARS outbreak after it was discovered in southern China heightened mistrust of the central Chinese government among many in Hong Kong.

So it should therefore come as no surprise that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan in December raised suspicions — and fears — in Hong Kong.

Politically sensitive time: Hong Kong’s move to close some of its borders comes amid eight months of ongoing anti-government protests that began against a now-scrapped China extradition bill, which have expanded to include demands for greater autonomy in the semi-autonomous city.

So it’s a particularly sensitive time for Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, with recent polls showing her popularity at an all-time low in a divided city. However, calls to limit travel from mainland China came from lawmakers on both sides of Hong Kong’s political divide.

Coronavirus patient in Germany is a 33-year-old German citizen

The coronavirus patient in Germany has been identified as a 33-year-old German man who works in Starnberg, south of Munich. He had not been to China but was in a meeting with a Chinese national last week, who has since been identified with the coronavirus, Dr. Andreas Zapf, the head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food safety said Tuesday.

Zapf said at a news conference that the patient had attended a company meeting in Starnberg last week, where the training manager — a female Chinese citizen — was leading the meeting. The Chinese staff member is originally from Shanghai, but her parents had visited her there a few days prior to the meeting in Germany, Zapf said.

The Chinese citizen has since flown back to China. She felt ill on the flight back and tested positive for the coronavirus after her return to Shanghai. She notified the German office upon this discovery, Zapf said.

The first three European cases of Wuhan coronavirus were identified in France on Friday.

l2 hr 43 min ago

Chinese broadcasters cutting down entertainment programming to air reports on outbreak

Television stations across China will cut down entertainment programming, including popular variety show, to air more reports on the outbreak, according to a statement posted Tuesday by the National Radio and Television Administration.

The move comes as the country steps up efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Speaking at a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday, China’s ambassador to the UN said the country has “full capability and confidence in winning the battle against the epidemic.”

“Putting the interests of the people first, China has taken rapid and strong measures, putting in place a nationwide prevention and control mechanism,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said.

“China has been working with the international community in the spirit of openness, transparency and scientific coordination. With a great sense of responsibility, China is sparing no effort in curbing the spread of disease and saving lives. Now is a crucial moment, and China has full capability and confidence in winning the battle against the epidemic.”

Some 60 million people have been placed under travel restrictions in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, with almost all movement in and out of Wuhan itself stopped and much of the city on lockdown.

Officials have also cracked down on the trade of wild animals, after the Wuhan coronavirus was linked to a seafood market selling exotic live mammals, including bats and civet cats, which have previously been linked to the 2003 SARS outbreak.

2 hr 47 min ago

US airlines offer to change China flights for free for another month as coronavirus spreads

Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images
Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

US airlines are giving customers more time to change their flights to China without incurring fees as the coronavirus continues to spread, and as American authorities raise travel precautions for the country.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines on Monday each extended change fee waivers through the end of February. Earlier, they had issued waivers through the end of January.

That means people scheduled to fly before then on either airline to Beijing or Shanghai — the two cities that each company serves in mainland China — can change to a different flight without paying a fee to do so.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday raised its travel precaution for China to its highest level. That means it’s advising travelers to “avoid nonessential travel” to the country. Previously, only Hubei province — where Wuhan is located — carried such a warning.

Read the full story here.

2 hr 53 min ago

Countries are sending planes to Wuhan to evacuate their citizens

A passenger returning to Rome from Wuhan, China, on January 23, 2020.
A passenger returning to Rome from Wuhan, China, on January 23, 2020. TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Wuhan and wider Hubei province, several countries are taking action to repatriate their citizens in the affected areas.

Here are the countries planning or preparing to evacuate citizens:

The US: About 240 Americans being evacuated from Wuhan Wednesday morning local time will arrive in Anchorage, Alaska, before arriving in Ontario, California. About three dozen Wuhan-based US diplomats and their families are also expected to be on board, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Japan: Japan is sending a charter flight to Wuhan tonight to retrieve about 200 citizens on Tuesday night local. It will leave Wuhan Wednesday morning and will arrive in Tokyo by midday local time. Roughly 650 Japanese citizens have requested to return to Japan, and the government will send more flights from Wednesday onwards.

Australia: Australia’s health minister said yesterday he was working with the Chinese Foreign Minister to repatriate Australian citizens in Wuhan, including 100 “young Australians.”

India: The Indian government is looking for “possible travel options out of Hubei province” for citizens in Wuhan, said a government spokesperson on Sunday. This comes after reports of 56 Indian students at the Wuhan University School Of Medicine who had been trapped in Wuhan since the lockdown.

South Korea: Four charter planes will evacuate South Korean citizens from Wuhan, said a government spokesperson today. Almost 700 South Korean citizens have applied to take the flight out.

France: A plane will fly French citizens back from Wuhan to France sometime this week, said the French Health Minister on said Sunday. There are around 800 French citizens in Wuhan.

United Kingdom: The UK is “looking at all the options” to help Britons trapped in Wuhan, said the UK Home Secretary after being asked about the possibility of evacuation flights.

3 hr 1 min ago

Wuhan coronavirus: View from the street

Chan Moon spoke to CNN near the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
Chan Moon spoke to CNN near the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. CNN

At a bus station near the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, in mainland China, some residents tell CNN they are concerned about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

“I’m worried. If they close (the border) now it’s too late. If they have (the virus) it is already in Hong Kong,” said Chan Moon, 38, a property agent.

“Hong Kong is small and congested, if the virus breaks out — I’m worried that it will be like SARS.”

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, was a coronavirus identified in southern China that infected 8,000 people and killed more than 700 between 2002 and 2003.

Ms Chow, 55, who was traveling from the border at Lo Wu to her home in Sheung Shui, in Hong Kong’s New Territories, said that she had to go through automatic checks at the border and had filled in a health declaration form.

Later on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government will “temporarily” close some of its borders with mainland China, cut flights from the mainland and suspend cross-border ferry services, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Last year Carrie Lam banned face masks. Now, she’s wearing one in a press conference

Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images
Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrived at press conference today wearing a surgical face mask, alongside several other members of her senior team.

Just a few months ago, the sight of government officials wearing masks would have been unthinkable — for a very different reason.

Today’s press conference, and the officials’ decision to wear masks, come as the Hong Kong government look to step up efforts to enforce better public health measures.

As of today, there are eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hong Kong. At the press conference, Lam announced additional measures including restricted travel across the Chinese border.

Protesters in Hong Kong on November 11, 2019.
Protesters in Hong Kong on November 11, 2019. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Masks in a different context: But a little over three months ago, in early October, Lam had invoked colonial-era emergency powers to ban people from wearing face masks in public assemblies as anti-government, pro-democracy protests rocked the city.

Protesters often wore face masks, as well as helmets and goggles, to obscure their identity and protect against tear gas when battling riot police on the streets.

For the entire second half of 2019, face masks were a symbol of the city’s political crisis, and a statement on where you stood. When Lam announced the face mask ban, she said it would help “stop violence and restore calm to society,” and act as a deterrent for protesters.

2 hr 42 min ago

Hong Kong to temporarily close some of its borders with mainland China

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the city will reduce cross-border travel between the mainland in an effort to control the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the city will reduce cross-border travel between the mainland in an effort to control the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.  ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the government will “temporarily” close some of its borders with mainland China and travel permits to mainland Chinese tourists will stop being issued.

Border crossings: Four land border will close from midnight local time on Thursday January 30 “until further notice,” Lam said.

That means people will not be able to travel between Hong Kong and the mainland using the West Kowloon Station, Hung Hom, Sha Tau Kok and Man Kam To.

Two water borders — the Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal and the China Ferry Terminal — will also be shut.

Planes: Flights from mainland China will decrease by 50%.

Trains: Lam said that cross border train services from West Kowloon — which operates the high speed rail to the mainland — and Hung Hom station will be temporarily stopped.

Ferries: All cross-border ferry services will be stopped, apart from ferries to Macao.

Buses and coaches: Bus and coach services coming from the mainland will also be decreased, Lam said.

Cross-boundary coach services at the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macau Bridge will be suspended.

Visas: Lam said that after consulting with Chinese authorities, individual travel permits for mainland tourists will be stopped.

3 hr 34 min ago

The US Centers for Disease Control is monitoring for Wuhan coronavirus at 20 US airports

The US Centers for Disease Control is monitoring for symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus at 20 US airports, the agency said on its website Monday.

The CDC had previously announced enhanced screening of passengers from Wuhan, China, at five airports:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The move to monitor more airports comes as the coronavirus continues to spread and the State Department prepares to evacuate US government personnel and private American citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The US State Department on Monday ordered personnel working at the US Consulate General in Wuhan to depart for the United States, a State Department official told CNN in a statement.

Read the full story here.

3 hr 41 min ago

Here’s how to protect yourself from the Wuhan coronavirus

With more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus confirmed outside mainland China, here’s how can you minimize your risk of getting infected.

Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing, the World Health Organization says. Other symptoms of this coronavirus include fever and shortness of breath. Severe cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.

Cook food thoroughly: Scientists believe this coronavirus started in another animal and then spread to humans. So health officials recommend cooking meat and eggs thoroughly.

Avoid live animal markets: Anyone with underlying medical conditions should avoid live animal markets and raw meats altogether, since those people are “considered at higher risk of severe disease,” the World Health Organization says.

Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Cover mouth and nose: If you’re the one feeling sick, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.

Wear a mask: If you or your doctor suspect you might have the Wuhan coronavirus, the CDC advises wearing a surgical mask.

Common sense: In general, the public should do “what you do every cold and flu season,” said Dr. John Wiesman, the health secretary in Washington state — where the first US case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed.

3 hr 50 min ago

Australian students returning from China asked to stay away from school

An Australian state government is asking students who have recently returned from China not to come back to school for 14 days amid concerns over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Australia has five confirmed cases of the virus.

The guidance from the New South Wales health department comes as most students in the state — which includes the city of Sydney — are due to return to school tomorrow after their summer holiday, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.

“We will be asking parents who may have holidayed with their children… if they have not yet been out of China for 14 days, then we’re going to ask those parents, I stress ‘ask those parents’, to do what everybody else has been doing so well in this difficult time, and that is to support the community by holding back your children from going to each one of those facilities,” NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard said, according to Nine News.

It is understood that the incubation period for the Wuhan coronavirus is 14 days.

“It is impossible to rule out the disease in the incubation period. So we urge people without symptoms, there is no use in going to your doctor or going to an emergency department for somehow a clearance. We cannot reassure you,” NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant said, Nine News reported.

3 hr 54 min ago

How the Wuhan coronavirus affects the body

4 hr ago

About 240 Americans to be evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday

Residential and commercial buildings of Wuhan in China's central Hubei province.
Residential and commercial buildings of Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

A California-bound flight chartered by the US State Department is scheduled to depart Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on Wednesday morning local time, a State Department official told CNN.

Stopping to refuel: The plane will stop to refuel at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, before arriving in Ontario, California, about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Who’s on board: About 240 Americans are expected to arrive in Anchorage, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Clinton Bennett said. About three dozen US diplomats and their families are also expected to be on board, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN Saturday.

Priority has also been given to US citizens who are “most at risk for contracting coronavirus” if they stay in city, the State Department official said. There are about 1,000 Americans living in Wuhan.

“All passengers will be subject to CDC screening, health observation, and monitoring requirements,” the State Department said in a statement.

How Ontario is preparing: Ontario Airport said in a statement Monday it has been working closely with federal, state, county and city partners to prepare for the arrival of the Wuhan flight. The airport has “conducted extensive training in managing situations such as this” and health, safety and security preparations are underway ahead of the flight’s planned arrival, the statement read.

Ontario Airport will operate under normal operations during the flight’s arrival, and the facility is taking steps to minimize risk to other travelers, staff, and the community, the statement read.

Read the full story here.

4 hr 5 min ago

Virus fears ripple through global markets as selloff continues

The Wuhan coronavirus is continuing to cause pain for investors.

Markets in South Korea and Japan fell on Tuesday, continuing a global selloff as the disease claims more lives and sickens people around the world.

South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) plunged 3.1% Tuesday, its first day of trading after the Lunar New Year holiday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225), which did not close for the holiday, slumped 0.6%.

Markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong remain closed for the holiday.

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