UK urges citizens in China to leave; Belgium sees first case

Daniel Fowler
February 5, 2020

Wuhan City, the epicenter of the latest coronavirus outbreak in central China's Hubei Province, on Monday started building shelter hospitals with an estimated total of 3,400 beds for patients showing mild symptoms of coronavirus. A man also died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan, the first virus-related overseas fatality.

New confirmed cases in Wuhan surged by 1,967 on Tuesday, up from 1,242 on Monday.

Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, said it had asked all casino operators to suspend operations for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus.

Dr. David Heymann, who led the World Health Organization's response to the SARS outbreak, said it's too early to tell when the virus outbreak will peak but that it appears the disease is still on the increase.

In Hong Kong, the local Princess Margaret Hospital confirmed that a 39-year-old local resident died from the virus in the morning after his heart stopped beating, local media reported. He traveled from Hong Kong to Wuhan on a high-speed train on January 21 and returned two days later after boarding another train at Changsha South Railway Station in southern China's Hunan Province. More than 3,000 passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship anchored off the Japanese port of Yokohama were quarantined after a passenger tested positive for the virus.

"We're not threatening the government, we just want to prevent the outbreak", said a nurse taking part in the strike.

Hong Kong was badly hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that emerged from China in 2002 and killed nearly 800 people around the world.

The Asian financial center has confirmed 17 cases of the virus and its public hospital network is struggling to cope with a deluge of patients and measures to contain the epidemic.

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Chinese data suggest that the new virus, while much more contagious than SARS, is significantly less lethal, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.

The United States said on Friday it would block almost all foreign visitors who have been to China within the past 14 days, joining Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam and others with similar restrictions.

The Foreign Office has declined to say how many British nationals in Hubei province have come forward to say they wish to return to the United Kingdom - but the last flights out of Wuhan are expected to leave this week.

The United States began mandatory 14-day quarantines Sunday for USA citizens who had been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

Commercial airline options remain available throughout China, the UK Foreign Office said in an updated travel advisory notice, with the exception of Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak that includes the hard-hit city of Wuhan.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow played down the potential impact on the United States, but said on Tuesday that China's coronavirus would delay a surge in USA exports to China expected from the Phase one trade deal that was to take effect later this month.

Several Chinese carriers are continuing to operate flights between China and the UK.

Some economists predict world economic output will be cut by 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points due to China's lockdown.

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