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U.S to quarantine all 195 American evacuees from China

Updated January 31, 2020 - 12:47 pm

LOS ANGELES — U.S. health officials Friday issued a quarantine order for all 195 American evacuees from China.

The evacuees will spend two weeks at a military base in California. They were flown on a charter flight earlier this week from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the new virus outbreak.

After a stop in Anchorage for refueling, they landed Wednesday at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California.

Initially, health officials said the evacuees were asked to stay at the base to undergo three days of monitoring and testing. Officials believe it can take up to 14 days for someone who is infected to develop symptoms. As of Thursday, none of the Americans housed at the base had shown symptoms of the virus.

US advises against any travel to China

The U.S. advised against all travel to China as the number of cases of a worrying new virus spiked more than tenfold in a week, including the highest death toll in a 24-hour period reported Friday.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are suspending all flights between the U.S. and China as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

American Airlines says it is suspending flights beginning Friday through March 27. Delta says its suspension will not take effect until Feb. 6 to ensure that customers looking to exit China can do so. Delta’s suspension will last until April 30.

Other U.S. carriers have curtailed service to China, while several European airlines have suspended it altogether.

The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a worrying sign of its spread that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency.

The State Department’s travel advisory told Americans in China to consider departing using commercial means, and requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel in light of the virus.

Almost 10,000 cases in China

China as of Friday morning counted 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213, including 43 new fatalities. The vast majority of the cases have been in Hubei province and its provincial capital, Wuhan, where the first illnesses were detected in December. No deaths have been reported outside China.

The National Health Commission reported 171 cases have been “cured and discharged from hospital.” WHO has said most people who got the illness had milder cases, though 20% experienced severe symptoms. Symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever and cough and in severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

China was arranging special flights to help Wuhan residents return home from holidays abroad. Some waiting for a flight leaving Bangkok said they wanted to return to take care of their loved ones.

China’s foreign ministry gave few details on the flights, but said people from Hubei and especially Wuhan would be sent directly back as soon as possible in light of the “practical difficulties” they were encountering.

50M under quarantine

China has placed more than 50 million people in the region under virtual quarantine, while foreign countries, companies and airlines have cut back severely on travel to China and quarantined those who recently passed through Wuhan. Infected people don’t show symptoms immediately and may be able to pass on the virus before they appear sick.

Since China informed WHO about the new virus in late December, at least 20 countries have reported cases, as scientists race to understand how exactly the virus is spreading and how severe it is.

Experts say there is significant evidence the virus is spreading among people in China and WHO noted with its emergency declaration Thursday it was especially concerned that some cases abroad also involved human-to-human transmission. It defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva. “Our greatest concern is the potential for this virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.

“This declaration is not a vote of non-confidence in China,” he said. “On the contrary, WHO continues to have the confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”

A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries.

US Embassy sends family members home

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was authorizing the departure of family members and all non-emergency U.S. government employees from Beijing and the consulates in the cities of Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Staff from the Wuhan consulate departed earlier this week.

The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution related to logistical disruptions stemming from restricted transportation and availability of appropriate health care related to the novel coronavirus,” the embassy said.

The level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory is the highest grade of warning.

Nations reporting first cases

Russia, Italy and England confirmed two cases each, the first cases in those countries. At least 23 countries beyond China have confirmed cases.

The new virus has now infected more people globally than were sickened during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, a cousin of the new virus. Both are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that can cause the common cold.

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