The Latest: Putin tells officials to prepare for new virus
BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the country’s government to be prepared to deal with a possible outbreak of a new virus from China.
“It is a new phenomenon, and the question is how well we are prepared for this challenge,” Putin said during a meeting with several Cabinet members.
Russia shares a long border with China. Up to 2 million tourists from China visit Russia every year, with about the same number of Russian tourists traveling to China.
So far there haven't been any confirmed cases of the virus in Russia.
Since the start of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, officials have reported testing 1.3 million people who returned from China. More than 130 of them have been hospitalized with suspected coronavirus, but in the end were diagnosed with other conditions.
German auto parts maker Webasto said Wednesday it has temporarily shut its headquarters near Munich after four members of its staff were confirmed to have been infected with a new virus earlier this week.
The infections are believed to have occurred following contact with a Chinese employee from Wuhan who had traveled to Germany to lead a training session.
The company said most of the 1,000 staff at the site in Stockdorf are working from home for the time being. Webasto has an annual turnover of about 3.4 billion euros from the sale of panoramic car roofs and other auto parts, about half of which goes to China.
China has reported more infections from a new virus than it had from an outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003, although the death toll is still lower.
China said it has confirmed 5,974 cases of the new virus, compared to 5,327 cases of SARS.
It also reported another large jump in cases on Wednesday and a rise in the death toll to 132. That compares to 348 people killed in China during SARS. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed nearly 800 people worldwide.
Scientists say there are still many critical questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how transmissible and severe it is. More than 50 cases have been reported outside China.
The British government is preparing to fly citizens back from the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak of a new virus, and will put them in quarantine for two weeks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted Wednesday that “anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.”
Britain’s Press Association news agency reported that the returning Britons will likely be held on a military base.
There are an estimated 200 British citizens in Wuhan, and a flight is expected to bring them home on Thursday.
At least 132 people have died and more than 6,000 have been infected with a new type of coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan in December.
The British government has advised against all but essential travel to mainland China, and British Airways on Wednesday said it is suspending flights to and from the country, apart from Hong Kong.
Kazakhstan has suspended all flights, train and bus services to neighboring China and stopped issuing visas to Chinese nationals due to the outbreak of a new virus.
The government announced halting all flights to China starting Monday and all trains as of Saturday. Passenger bus service was suspended earlier Wednesday. Kazakhstan, a vast nation in Central Asia, shares a long border with China.
Kazakh authorities have also rejected a proposal by the International Tennis Federation to move a series of the Federation Cup games to Kazakhstan from China.
Thirty-five people who recently traveled to China remain hospitalized in Kazakhstan, but none has been confirmed to be suffering from coronavirus.
Four members of a Chinese family who traveled to the United Arab Emirates are being treated for a new virus.
The statement from health officials, carried by the state-run WAM news agency, comes after authorities earlier acknowledged the first cases Wednesday in the country that's home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Earlier, it said the family came from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
It did not explain how or when the family traveled from Wuhan to the UAE, the home of long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways.
Australian health officials say the Chinese women's national soccer team is being quarantined in Brisbane city over concerns about the possible spread of a new virus.
Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says 32 people — including players and staff — traveled through the virus-effect Chinese city of Wuhan a week ago.
The team will be kept in isolation in a Brisbane hotel until Wednesday next week. The group arrived in Brisbane on a flight from Shanghai on Tuesday before border officials placed them in isolation.
They are travelling with a team doctor and none has shown symptoms.
British Airways says it's immediately suspending all of its flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.
BA said in a statement Wednesday that “we apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.”
The airline operates daily flights from London's Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain's Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.
China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has killed more than 130 people.
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Australia and New Zealand will work together to evacuate their isolated and vulnerable citizens from China’s virus-hit Hubei province.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday could not say how many or how soon citizens would be flown by Qantas from Hubei. The departures would be arranged in consultation with China.
The citizens would be sent for 14 days to a quarantine center on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean which has been used to hold asylum seekers and foreign criminals facing deportation.
Australia and New Zealand have also ratcheted up their travel advice for China.
Australia has advised its citizens to reconsider their need to travel to China and not to travel to Hubei.
New Zealand's government advised people to avoid all non-essential travel to China due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Two Japanese men evacuated from a virus-hit Chinese city say they felt relieved but also exhausted upon their arrival in Tokyo.
They were aboard a chartered flight Japan arranged to evacuate 206 Japanese citizens from Wuhan.
Takeo Aoyama who works for Nippon Steel Corp. and Takayuki Kato, who works for Intec, both wore masks but said they felt fine.
Kato said he was not panicking in Wuhan, but “I was shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That’s when the situation drastically changed."
China cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to try to contain the outbreak of the new type of coronavirus that has infected thousands of people.
Aoyama said many people who wish to go home to Japan are still in Wuhan, including workers at a Japanese supermarket chain staying open to supply food.
He said it is important to step up preventive measures in Japan, but “I hope we can also provide support for the Chinese people, which I think would also help the Japanese people who are still there.”