Coronavirus deaths hit 259 as China voices anger at US travel ban


    China has reacted angrily to a US entry ban on foreign nationals who have visited the country in the past two weeks, as countries around the world raced to contain the coronavirus outbreak amid a rising death toll.

    The US administration on Friday declared the virus a public health emergency, although it insisted the risk to Americans remained low.

    The Chinese government criticised the measures, saying it contradicted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) appeal to avoid travel bans and implied that Beijing was not doing enough to contain the virus’s spread beyond China’s borders.

    “Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “[It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”

    On Saturday, Australia echoed measures taken by the US, declaring that no one travelling from mainland China would be allowed into Australia unless they were Australian citizens or residents or their dependents. Entry will be denied to anyone who has left or transited through mainland China from 1 February

    The death toll from the virus rose by 46 overnight to 259 – all in China – with nearly 12,000 confirmed cases.

    American citizens who have travelled within the past two weeks to Hubei province will be placed in quarantine for 14 days, the longest incubation period for the virus. Those who visited other parts of mainland China will undergo health checks and 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine”.

    The US’s emergency measure were announced shortly before health authorities identified a seventh case in the US – a California man who became ill after traveling to China.

    About 60 million residents of Hubei province are subject to restrictions designed to slow the spread of the disease. But some people were leaving and entering the area by foot on a bridge over the Yangtze river, reports said, and infections have jumped in two cities near Wuhan.

    Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the US travel restrictions had been imposed after the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday.

    “I want to emphasise that this is a serious health situation in China, but I want to emphasise that the risk to the American public is currently low,” Redfield said. “Our goal is to do all we can do to keep it that way.”

    The US state department warned Americans on Thursday not to travel to China.

    Almost 200 Americans evacuated earlier this week from Wuhan have been placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine on Friday.”


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