China counts 170 deaths; new countries infected

Thursday, January 30, 2020
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AP

Construction workers labor at the site of the Huoshenshan temporary field hospital being built in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Thursday.

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday raised the death toll to 170 and more countries reported infections from a worrisome new virus, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from China’s worst-hit region returned home to medical tests and even isolation.

Russia announced it was closing its 2,600-mile border with China, joining Mongolia and North Korea in barring crossings to guard against a new viral outbreak. It had been de facto closed because of the Lunar New Year holiday, but Russian authorities said the closure would be extended until March 1.

Train traffic between the countries was halted except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, but air traffic between the two countries continued, at least for now. Russia has not confirmed any cases of the virus.

Meanwhile, South Korea confirmed a case that was locally spread, a 56-year-old man who had contact with a patient who was diagnosed with the new virus earlier.

Human-to-human spread of the virus outside China has also occurred in Germany, Japan, Canada and Vietnam, and was a major reason the World Health Organization has convened its committee of experts Thursday to assess whether the outbreak warrants being declared a global emergency. The committee last week had advised the U.N. health agency it was too early to make that pronouncement.

The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, a cousin of the new virus.

The latest figures for mainland China show an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711 confirmed cases. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and one was in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

A second Japanese flight carrying 210 evacuees landed in Tokyo. Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever. Three of Japan’s confirmed cases were among a group of evacuees who had returned on a governmentchartered flight the previous day.

A flight was also en route to China to bring back 350 Europeans. The U.S. said additional flights were planned for early next week after it evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan on Wednesday. They are being tested and monitored at a Southern California military base.

South Korea, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and other countries were also trying to get their citizens out. Taiwan, the self-governing republic China considers its own territory, has also asked to be able to repatriate its passport holders from Wuhan, but it was awaiting approval from Beijing.

Israel’s El Al , Spain’s Iberia, Scandinavian Airlines, Egypt Air and Korean Air joined the growing list of airlines suspending or reducing service to China.

In South Korea, residents in two cities where quarantine facilities were being prepared threw eggs and water bottles at government officials to protest plans to isolate in their neighborhoods 700 South Koreans the government plans to evacuate from China.

Amid reports of shortages in food and daily necessities in hot-spot areas, Chinese authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

It cited Ministry of Commerce data showing current reserves in Wuhan can ensure a secure supply of rice and cooking oil for more than 15 days, pork and eggs for more than 10 days and vegetables for about five days.

China’s highly developed online shopping and home delivery businesses were important in ensuring those confined to home by choice or by order could get food and other essentials.

China extended its Lunar New Year holiday to Sunday to try to keep people home, but the wave of returning travelers could potentially cause the virus to spread further.

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