SHANGHAI : China faced mounting isolation from international travel curbs and flight suspensions on Saturday as the death toll from a spreading coronavirus outbreak rose to 259.

The epidemic has led to mass evacuations of foreign citizens and risks exacerbating a slowdown in growth in the world's second-largest economy. Russia said its aerospace defence forces - part of the armed forces - would begin flying its citizens out soon.

Inside Chia, Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, was under a virtual quarntine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down. Elsewhere, local authorities placed growing restrictions on travel and business.

China's National Health Commission said there were 2,102 new confirmed infections in China on Friday, bringing the total to 11,791. Around two dozen other countries have reported another 137 cases. The death toll rose by 46 to 259.

The Chinese data would suggest it is less deadly than the 2002-3 outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS], which killed nearly 800 people of the about 8,000 it infected, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.

In Beijing, counters were set up at the entrances of housing estates, where volunteers wearing red armbands and masks noted down details of residents coming back from their hometowns after the Lunar New Year holiday.

''As long as I am properly protected and don't go to crowded places, I don't feel scared at all about my hometown or Beijing,'' said a 58-year old migrant worker Surnamed Sun.

Others were more worried. ''There will be a huge number of people returning to the city. I think it will put Beijing at risk of more infections,'' said Zhang Chunlei, 45, another migrant worker.

In Hubei, the provincial government extended the holiday break to Feb 13 in a bid to contain the outbreak, The Hubei Daily reported.

The World Health Organization, which this week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, has said global trade and restrictions are not needed.

But Singapore and the United States announced measures on Friday to ban foreign nationals who have recently been in China from entering their territories.

Australia followed suit, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the country would deny entry to all foreign nationals travelling from mainland China from Saturday.

''We're in fact operating with abundance of caution in these circumstances so Australians can go about their daily lives with confidence,'' Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand said travel bans forced them to suspend their direct flights to China from Feb 9, [Reuters]


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!