Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. and Australia Tighten Controls as Toll Passes 250

The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who have recently traveled to China, hoping to limit the spread of the new coronavirus to their countries.

The American restrictions, announced on Friday, exempt immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia’s temporary ban on Saturday, saying that “Australian citizens, Australian residents, dependents, legal guardians or spouses” would still be allowed into the country.

American officials also said that any United States citizen returning home who has been in the Hubei province of China within the past 14 days — believed to be the virus’s incubation period — will be quarantined for up to 14 days. Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is in Hubei.

Those who have been to other parts of China within the past 14 days will be subject to “proactive entry screening” and up to 14 days of monitoring and self-quarantine.

The United States will also funnel all flights from China to just a few airports, including Kennedy in New York, O’Hare in Chicago and San Francisco International Airport.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American actions were being taken because there were “a lot of unknowns” surrounding the virus and its transmission path.

“The number of cases have steeply inclined with every day,” Dr. Fauci said.

The announcement came as major air carriers suspended flights between the United States and mainland China. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said direct air service would be halted for months, news that rattled the stock market and industries that depend on the flow of goods and people. Qantas followed suit on Saturday, announcing its own suspension of flights to China.

Vietnam banned all flights coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1, according to the United States Federal Aviation Administration. Only flights that have received approval from Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority will be allowed during the ban, which took effect on Saturday.

Chinese officials on Saturday reported the highest death toll so far in a 24-hour period.

◆ The 46 new deaths in China raised the toll to 259.

◆ About 2,100 new cases were also recorded in the country in the past 24 hours, raising the worldwide total to nearly 12,000, according to Chinese and World Health Organization data. The vast majority of the cases are inside China; about 100 cases have been confirmed in 21 other countries.

◆ All of China’s provinces and territories have now been touched by the outbreak.

Countries and territories that have confirmed cases: Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, Russia, France, the United States, South Korea, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Britain, Vietnam, Italy, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Finland.

◆ Cases recorded in Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam, Japan, France and the United States involved patients who had not been to China.

◆ No deaths have been reported outside China.

◆ China has asked the European Union for help in purchasing urgent medical supplies from its member countries, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

A prominent respiratory expert who originally told Chinese state media that the coronavirus was under control and preventable has admitted that his choice of words was inappropriate.

Wang Guangfa, head of the department of pulmonary medicine at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, compared himself and other medical professionals tackling the outbreak to soldiers walking onto a battlefield.

“All the bullets are flying,” said Dr. Wang, in an interview with Jiemian, a finance-focused news site founded by Shanghai United Media Group, which is controlled by the government of Shanghai.

In many ways the doctor, who has been widely criticized for his reassuring early statements, has come to symbolize how slowly China recognized the urgency of the outbreak. Dr. Wang himself contracted the coronavirus, apparently during a visit to Wuhan.

As the virus began to spread through Wuhan in early January, people who spoke out about it online were silenced by censors and, in some cases, held by the police, accused of spreading rumors. When journalists from Hong Kong visited a Wuhan hospital, police officers detained them for hours. (The Hong Kong news media were among the first to shed light on the fast-spreading virus.)

Dr. Wang initially said that the virus could not be spread by human-to-human contact. But 11 days later, he confirmed to state media that he had the virus, and that he may have contracted it during a trip to Wuhan with a group of experts.

In his interview with Jiemian, published on Friday, Dr. Wang said he had misdiagnosed himself as having the common flu, and that he had waited days before checking himself into a hospital. He said he had since recovered and was discharged on Thursday.

Asked why he had originally called the coronavirus “preventable and controllable,” Dr. Wang blamed limited information at the time of his Wuhan visit. A clearer picture of the virus’s transmissibility would have required “epidemiological data, which is difficult to judge,” he said.

“These controversies may have been a kind of misunderstanding,” Dr. Wang said of the criticism he had received. He also defended his original phrasing, saying that many outbreaks of infectious diseases in history were ultimately controlled in the end.

His interview has been widely shared on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform. Some of the most popular comments are from angry users.

“‘Could be prevented and controlled,’ Wang Guangfa,” said one user, who wrote under a pseudonym based on “Gorbachev” in Chinese characters. “Because of this line, the most critical half-month was squandered! And resulted in this.”

Amy Qin, who covers China from Beijing, on Friday arrived in Wuhan, the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 250 people so far. Follow Amy as she reports around Wuhan.

Amy arrived in a wary city that has been cut off from the rest of the world for more than a week.

Streets were mostly empty as people avoided contact with one another and stayed fearfully at home. Not everybody could bear to stay inside, however.

All around the city, authorities and businesses have worked to create an air of normalcy.

It’s clear, however, that the city has been strained to its limits by the epidemic.

Apple on Saturday said it would close its stores in mainland China, one of its biggest markets, until Feb. 9.

In a statement, the iPhone maker said it was closing stores, corporate offices and contact centers “out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts.” Its online store will remain open, it said.

The company operates 42 stores in mainland China, though its iPhones and other devices are widely available through other retailers.

Apple generates about one-sixth of its sales and one-quarter of its operating income in China. While its results there fell last year, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, told investors last week that the company’s new iPhone 11 was selling well in the country.

But he also cautioned that the coronavirus outbreak had kept the company from offering more specific guidance about its financial performance in the coming months.

Mr. Cook also said the company was looking for ways to minimize supply disruptions. Apple makes most of its iPhones and other gadgets in China, usually in factories owned by third-party contractors like Foxconn of Taiwan.

Apple is only one of a slew of global companies reconsidering their China operations as the outbreak has spread. A prolonged slowdown or closure in China could have a major impact on global economic growth.

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, addressed such concerns on Saturday, pledging to make sure the country’s financial system had enough cash to deal with the economic blow. It also said it would lower lending rates for companies. Local regulators in Guangdong Province, as well as in Beijing and the city of Chengdu, have also announced efforts to support companies.

China’s Federation of Radio and Television Associations issued a notice on Saturday urging the suspension of all television and film production in the country, adding that actors, actresses and production crew members had a right to refuse work. “Companies or crews who continue production and lead to the spread of the epidemic will take responsibility for the consequences,” the association said.

Early on Saturday, a group of truck drivers smoked cigarettes in the soft morning light as they waited to undertake a mission of national urgency: delivering fresh produce to the stricken city of Wuhan.

Broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, chili peppers and more were due to head there by the truckload from Shouguang, an eastern city that is one of China’s biggest vegetable producers.

The coronavirus is testing one of the Chinese government’s proudest achievements: its ability to feed its 1.4 billion people.

As anxious shoppers around the country load up on provisions, many shops and supermarkets have been selling out of fresh food each morning, leaving slim pickings by midday. Towns and villages in many places have also closed off roads to passing traffic, which has caused some truck shipments to take longer than usual.

So far, there have been no signs of a major breakdown in China’s food supplies. The government has ordered vendors to keep prices stable and punished stores that have gouged consumers.

Shouguang is one of several places in China that have donated vegetables to Wuhan in recent days. The Wuhan government has tasked three retailers with selling the goods and delivering the proceeds to the city’s virus-fighting budget.

On Saturday, the 10 or so trucks in Shouguang that were Wuhan-bound had been festooned with red banners that read, “Pull together in times of trouble, go Wuhan!” and “The people are united, fight the epidemic together.”

The journey would take four days in total. After the trip, the truck drivers would be sequestered at home for two weeks, because of the possibility that they’d been exposed to the virus. That might mean thousands of dollars in forgone wages.

Still, several of them said they had leapt at the opportunity to take part.

“I knew about the dangers,” said Ma Chenglong, a 34-year-old driver. “But when the country is in trouble, we common people have a duty.”

As the coronavirus continues to spread through China and globally, world leaders are finding themselves in the tricky position of having to weigh the economic cost of reacting by closing their borders to Chinese travelers.

The outbreak and China’s tightening of its own border are beginning to expose how dependent many nations are on China and the cash its selfie-snapping tourists bring in.

For Australia, which on Saturday joined the United States in temporarily barring foreigners who had recently been to China, China was the single largest source of visitors in 2018, and its tourists spent 12 billion Australian dollars, or about $8 billion, that year.

As some countries took drastic measures, their leaders acknowledged the economic impact of the moves. “It’s going to hurt us,” warned Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore, after announcing that the small island-state would bar all Chinese visitors and foreigners who had traveled to China within the past 14 days.

“China is a very big source of tourists for Singapore,” Mr. Lee told reporters on Friday. Restaurants, travel operators and hotels in Singapore were all “bound to be significantly affected,” he said.

Singaporean companies that rely on China, its biggest trading partners, for growth would also take a hit. “I expect the rest of the economy also to be affected with China in semi-lockdown mode now,” the prime minister said.

The authorities in Mongolia, which is heavily dependent on China’s demand for its coal and copper, closed their country’s border with China until March 2. Towns along the border typically brim with Chinese coal traders heading to Talvan Tolgoi, Mongolia’s biggest mine, and Mongolians traveling to China in pursuit of better-paying jobs.

Other countries and regions stopped short of closing borders entirely. The Hong Kong authorities have halved the number of flights from China, shut rail service to mainland China and limited visas to the semiautonomous region.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has since received blowback for not taking more drastic measures. Trade unions, including rail and hospital workers, have threatened to strike if the government does not close the city off from the mainland to contain the spread of the virus

Cambodia’s leader, Hun Sen, has been defiant in his decision not to restrict Chinese tourists to his country, saying that doing so would “be an attack on the Cambodian economy.”

He said it would “kill the hospitality and service industry” and “strain relations” with China. Cambodia is home to many Chinese businessmen, and China is the country’s largest benefactor in terms of foreign investment.

“I don’t care what other countries think — Cambodia does not behave this way,” he said.

A third confirmed case of coronavirus in California was announced on Friday, raising questions about the state’s vulnerability in the outbreak on the same day the federal government imposed a 14-day quarantine for the 195 people who arrived on an evacuation flight from Wuhan, China.

The three confirmed cases were in Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara Counties. In all, seven cases had been reported in the United States as of Friday night.

In Los Angeles County, the infected person reported to the authorities that he was feeling unwell as he was traveling back to Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak. The patients in Orange County and Santa Clara County had also traveled to Wuhan.

Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a recorded video message that the health risk to the general public in California was low. “But we still consider this a serious public health concern,” Dr. Angell said.

The United States government has imposed a federal quarantine on the 195 people who were evacuated on Wednesday from Wuhan, China, to a California military base, officials said on Friday.

The group will be held at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., for 14 days, to ensure that they are not infected with the coronavirus.

Around the world, the growing number of constraints on travelers from China because of the coronavirus outbreak has reverberated to the United Nations, a hub of international diplomacy with operations that involve travel in all 193 member states.

In an advisory issued Friday evening, the organization’s headquarters in New York told staff members and their families that “they may be subjected to travel restrictions and health screening measures implemented by local authorities for travelers entering or exiting the country.”

While United Nations diplomats and other personnel were not banned from traveling, the advisory warned that “it would be prudent to make contingency arrangements should the need arise.” A page on the United Nations website provided staff members with practical steps and advice.

Reporting was contributed by Alexandra Stevenson, Elaine Yu, Amy Qin, Raymond Zhong, Michael Corkery, Annie Karni, Russell Goldman, Thomas Fuller and Carlos Tejada. Wang Yiwei contributed research.

Recommended Posts

Share this post with your friends

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

© Foundation for Truth in Journalism, a not for profit corp estb. 2010 ~ Non Partisan Pursuit of Truth®

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service