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Honolulu among 7 U.S. airports to receive flights from China; U.S. declares public health emergency amid coronavirus outbreak

  • ReutersNews

    The Trump administration, while insisting the risk to Americans from coronavirus is low, nevertheless declared a public health emergency on Friday and announced the extraordinary step of barring entry to the United States of foreign nationals who have recently visited China.

  • DENNIS ODA / 2019
                                Inside Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

    DENNIS ODA / 2019

    Inside Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

  • CHINATOPIX VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Quarantine workers in protective suits checked identity documents today as tourists from the Wuhan area walked off of a chartered plane taking them home from Bangkok at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

    CHINATOPIX VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Quarantine workers in protective suits checked identity documents today as tourists from the Wuhan area walked off of a chartered plane taking them home from Bangkok at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The U.S. today advised against all travel to China after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a new virus that has spread to more than a dozen countries a global emergency. Travelers wore face masks today as a screen at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing showed a video about the proper way to wear a mask.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The U.S. today advised against all travel to China after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a new virus that has spread to more than a dozen countries a global emergency. Travelers wore face masks today as a screen at the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing showed a video about the proper way to wear a mask.

UPDATE: 7 p.m.

Beijing criticized Washington’s tightening of travel controls to bar most foreign nationals who visited the country within the past two weeks.

South Korea and India evacuated their citizens from the locked-down Chinese city at the center of an area where some 50 million people are barred from leaving in a sweeping anti-disease effort. Indonesia was sending a plane.

The number of confirmed infections in China rose to 11,791.

The United States declared a public health emergency Friday and President Donald Trump signed an order barring entry to foreign nationals, other than immediate family of American citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in China within the last 14 days, which scientists say is the longest incubation period for the virus.

China’s government criticized the measure, which it said contradicted the World Health Organization’s appeal to avoid travel bans, and “unfriendly comments” that Beijing was failing to cooperate.

“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the U.S. rushed to go in the opposite way. Certainly not a gesture of goodwill,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

Japan’s government announced similar restrictions late Friday barring entry to foreigners who visited Hubei province within the past two weeks or obtained visas issued there.

Also Saturday, the ruling Communist Party postponed the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, for an unspecified “appropriate extent” and appealed to the public there to stay home.

3 p.m.

China has reported 259 people have died of a new virus, which has now infected nearly 11,800 people as the United States declared a public health emergency and took drastic steps to significantly restrict entry into the country.

President Donald Trump has signed an order that will temporarily bar foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in China within the last 14 days.

The new restrictions, which take effect at 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, were announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is coordinating the U.S. response.

Noon

The U.S. declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China, ordering as much as a 14-day quarantine of citizens returning from the province at the center of the outbreak and denying entry to some foreigners.

In addition, flights to the U.S. from China will be restricted to seven airports. U.S. carriers have already significantly cut travel to and from the country. Foreign nationals who have been in China recently will be denied entry to the U.S.

The actions, announced Friday by President Donald Trump’s newly formed virus task force, will begin Feb. 2.

Under the temporary emergency measure, U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province during the past two weeks will be subject to the quarantine, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Citizens returning from elsewhere in China will be subject to screening, and have to self-quarantine for two weeks while being monitored.

11:45 a.m.

From the U.S. Virus Task Force briefing:

• The travelers who will be denied entry are foreign nationals — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — who have been in China within the past 14 days. • Only 1 in 6 U.S. cases of the coronavirus have been detected through airport screening, officials said. • Chinese flights will be funneled through Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York’s JFK International, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle. (The Hawaii Department of Transportation said in a statement today: “The state continues to work with federal, county and private partners to plan, prepare and be ready to execute measures implemented by the federal authorities to keep the public safe.” • The new entry measures are being taken after instances of asymptomatic spread became clearer and China cases exploded. • Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “This is a serious health situation in China, but I want to emphasize the risk to the American public is low. Our goal is to do all we can to keep it that way.” • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “The prudent, targeted and temporary actions will decrease the pressure on public health officials screening incoming travelers, expedite the processing of U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning from China, and ensure resources are focused on the health and safety of the American people.”

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11:05 a.m.

The U.S. declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China, ordering as much as a 14-day quarantine of citizens returning from the province at the center of the outbreak and denying entry to some foreigners displaying symptoms.

In addition, flights to the U.S. from China will be restricted to seven airports. U.S. carriers have already significantly cut travel to and from the country.

The actions, announced today by President Donald Trump’s newly formed virus task force, will begin Feb. 2.

Under the temporary emergency measure, U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province during the past two weeks will be subject to the quarantine, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Citizens returning from elsewhere in China will be subject to screening, and have to self-quarantine for two weeks while being monitored.

Foreign nationals who have been in China recently, and who display symptoms, will be denied entry to the U.S., Azar said.

Earlier, the State Department said it will help American citizens in Wuhan get out of China, according to an official familiar with the matter, amid broad cancellations of flights from the country by private carriers and travel restrictions in the city. Cases have now soared to more than 9,950 globally.

A new wave of influenza is picking up in the U.S., raising the risk that patients who get the seasonal illness may think they have coronavirus, which has nearly identical symptoms early on in a patient’s illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 19 million Americans have fallen ill with the flu so far this season, including 180,000 people who ended up in the hospital. About 10,000 Americans have died, including more than 60 children.

This season of flu began early in the U.S. After, stalling, it’s picked back up with a new strain of H1N1 influenza, according to a government survey of the illness.

“If coronavirus becomes a larger issue in the U.S., this will be a difficult thing,” said Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “As clinicians, we are bombarded with people right now who have flu-like symptoms.”

8:14 a.m.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that aggressive steps will be needed to stop the coronavirus from taking hold in the U.S.

“If we take strong measures now, we may be able to blunt the impact on the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said on a call with reporters today. “The virus is continuing to spread rapidly throughout China.”

The government has put about 200 U.S. citizens repatriated from Wuhan under legal quarantine at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California. The group includes State Department personnel, family members, children and other Americans. It’s the first time such a policy has been used in the U.S. since the 1960s, when a quarantine order was issued to stop the spread of smallpox.

The quarantine was implemented after one person wanted to leave, Messonnier said.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health threat. This is one of the tools in our toolbox,” Messonnier said.

She declined to comment on how other Americans returning from China would be monitored.

7:15 a.m.

The U.S. State Department is working to arrange additional flights for U.S. citizens still in Wuhan, where the Chinese outbreak of coronavirus is centered, according to an official with knowledge of the plans. The U.S. government effort follows the cancellation of flights by major U.S. carriers from much of China.

Seats would be offered as they become available, the official said.. The State Department is encouraging all American citizens in China to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment (STEP) program at step.state.gov to receive updates on evacuation flights.

6:20 a.m.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. will suspend all flights to China due to health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the first U.S. carriers to take such action.

Delta flights will cease from Feb. 6 through April 30, while American will halt flights starting today and running through March 27.

The decisions came the day after the U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to China. European carriers including British Airways, Air France and Deutsche Lufthansa AG had already halted flights.

5:53 a.m.

Chinese officials took issue with U.S. comments about the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, and promised they would bring the infection under control.

“U.S. comments are inconsistent with the facts and inappropriate.” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in statement posted online today. The World Health Organization “called on countries to avoid adopting travel bans. Yet shortly afterward, the U.S. went in the opposite direction, and started a very bad turn. It is so unkind.”

U.S. officials said this week that they had difficulty getting specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the front lines of the outbreak in China, and late Thursday the State Department advised Americans traveling in China to come home. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday also said the outbreak may help bring jobs back to the U.S.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Chen Xu, said during a press conference in Geneva that the country had been transparent about the disease.

“We have conducted our business in an open and transparent manner with the outside world,” he said.

Xu said that China would work with the World Health Organization to bring the disease under control, following a declaration by the WHO that the outbreak was an international emergency. The declaration will “not only coordinate global prevention control measures but enables us to mobilize international resources to respond to the epidemic,” he said.

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