Americans should avoid travel to China during outbreak, CDC says
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised travelers to avoid all non-essential trips to China as governments, companies and international health organizations rushed to contain a SARS-like coronavirus that has claimed more than 100 lives.
The agency, which is spearheading the U.S. effort to contain the virus, said that while the risk to the American public is considered low, the precautions are necessary to stop its spread.
“While it’s possible that some person-to-person spread with this virus may be detected in the United States, the goal of the ongoing U.S. public health response is to contain this outbreak and prevent sustained spread in this country,” the CDC said in a statement Tuesday.
The warning follows an advisory Monday by the State Department that Americans should reconsider travel to China.
Hong Kong earlier announced restrictions on travel from mainland China. It will close some border checkpoints and restrict flights, trains and ferries from the mainland, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday. The Chinese government is also suspending visas for visitors to the territory, she said.
The new measures mark a step change in efforts to contain the virus, after China effectively locked down about 50 million people in Wuhan and Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The latest moves are aimed at protecting an Asian financial hub that was already reeling from months of anti-Beijing protests.
“We have to start with the source,” Lam said at a press conference, wearing a surgical mask. “This should greatly reduce visitors from China.”
Other disruptions to global businesses, travel and the world’s second-largest economy are growing. China has extended the Lunar New Year break, while companies ranging from Starbucks Corp. to Japanese retailer Uniqlo are shutting sites.
The spread of the illness has reignited concerns over global growth. Stocks continued a selloff in Asia, though European shares stabilized and U.S. futures edged higher. China’s markets remained closed for the holiday.
The new Hong Kong travel restrictions, which take effect at midnight Thursday and follow China’s suspension of package tours, come as the death toll in China reached 106 and the number of confirmed cases soared 65% to 4,515. Lower numbers of infections have been reported throughout Asia as well as in the U.S., France and Canada.
Germany confirmed its first case on Tuesday, a 33-year-old man in Bavaria who was one of the first to fall ill with the virus without having traveled to China. Instead, he became infected after a visit from a Chinese colleague, officials said.
As global anxiety over the outbreak grows, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited Beijing to meet with government officials.
“We can see the speed and scale with which you are really hitting the virus hard,” Tedros said. “This is something we appreciate and also respect you for what you are doing.”
Public anger has grown over China’s response as the virus’s spread threatens a fragile economy after Beijing and Washington reached agreement on a phase one trade deal. The restrictions on travel will hurt tourism and consumption, while the extended holiday will hold back industrial production just as factories would normally be restarting.
Global corporations are urging employees in the region — or those who have recently returned from China — to work from home. Nissan Motor Co. and other automakers plan to evacuate workers from the hardest-hit areas, while Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. have suspended voyages leaving China.
The U.S. and other nations — including France, Japan, South Korea and Australia — were negotiating with China to arrange flights to evacuate diplomats, personnel and citizens.
Though the WHO has stopped short of recommending such repatriations, the U.S. State Department has raised its travel alert to the second-highest of four levels, saying citizens should reconsider travel to China while avoiding the area near Wuhan. The U.S., where five cases of the virus have been confirmed, may also expand travel screening at its borders.
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