Singapore bars entry of travelers from Wuhan as two more infections confirmed

Medical workers tend to an infected patient in Wuhan. Photo: Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University/Weibo
Medical workers tend to an infected patient in Wuhan. Photo: Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University/Weibo

Confirming its sixth and seventh cases of the Wuhan coronavirus yesterday, Singapore has announced new measures to quarantine Chinese nationals from the province where most infections are concentrated and bar those who’ve been there from entering.

As governments throughout Asia grapple with further limiting travel in light of a rapidly spreading virus and reports of transmission occurring outside of China, Singapore’s additional measures include refusing entry to anyone holding passports issued in Hubei province, where the outbreak began. 

A number of university dorms as well as an adventure camp on Pulau Ubin have been transformed into quarantine zones. Those who do not comply with quarantine measures face jail time. 

Singapore finds two more Wuhan virus cases, will quarantine at-risk Chinese travelers

Malaysia also confirmed it has found seven coronavirus cases, while cases of person-to-person transmission of the virus outside China have been reported in Japan and Germany.

Though anxiety has spread faster than the virus, emptying store shelves of protective masks, many of those who took ill in the first days have already recovered, with Vietnam and Cambodia reporting patients there as on the mend.

Confirmed infections have climbed to more than 5,000 across China, mainly in Wuhan, the city where it was first detected that’s now inside a growing exclusion zone that has locked down more than 50 million people.

The novel coronavirus has spread to at least 13 other countries outside of China, with Japan confirming more cases yesterday, one of which involved a Japanese bus driver who became infected after driving a group of Chinese tourists. European health officials yesterday confirmed that an afflicted German man was infected by a colleague, according to AFP.

Several countries have begun evacuating residents from the quarantine zone, with more than 200 Japanese airlifted from Wuhan landing in Tokyo this morning. 

The United States, France and Australia have also said they are planning evacuations. Australian evacuees will be taken to Christmas Island for quarantine. Thailand announced an evacuation effort but suspended plans after consulting with Chinese officials. 

The outbreak does not yet constitute a global health emergency, according to the World Health Organization, which this morning announced a centralized system for compiling infection data.

The SARS-like virus, designated 2019-nCoV, is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. The new virus, which reportedly emerged from a now-shuttered market that sold exotic wildlife such as bats, is believed to have come from animals. China has temporarily suspended all wildlife trade. 

The number of confirmed cases in mainland China stands at 5,974 this morning with 132 deaths. 

The country is also rushing to build two hospitals in Wuhan to treat coronavirus patients and is expected to complete it this week. 

Malaysian health officials today confirmed three more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected in the country to seven. 

All Chinese nationals, the latest patients include a 4-year-old, a 52-year-old man and a woman linked to previously confirmed cases. 

The woman had entered Malaysia’s Johor Bahru from Singapore together with her mother and two sons after her father and husband tested positive for coronavirus in Singapore. The woman initially tested negative while her sons and mother were confirmed to have been infected. The woman then remained in hospital with them. 

The country has imposed a ban on Chinese tourists from Wuhan in a bid to contain the spread of the disease. 

Cambodia and Vietnam’s first confirmed patients infected with the virus are showing signs of recovery, according to reports. 

Cambodia’s health officials reportedly said that the 60-year-old Chinese national Jia Jianhua who had flown in from Wuhan with three family members is recovering, without confirming when they will be discharged from the hospital. All four remain quarantined.

One of two patients in Vietnam is also showing signs of recovery after multiple tests turn up negative. The 28-year-old Chinese man remains in Saigon’s Cho Ray Hospital with his father, 66, the other confirmed patient, who is still receiving treatment. 

In Manila, upward of 50 Filipinos expected to be repatriated from the province where Wuhan is located will be quarantined upon arrival for two weeks. Some experts have objected to this measure, saying they should stay in the affected area and quarantine themselves instead. 

The Philippines remains free of the coronavirus but is monitoring around 20 patients in six regions. 

Meanwhile, Thailand is putting evacuation plans on hold following discussions with Chinese officials. 

Deputy permanent secretary Tana Weskosith told reporters yesterday China is confident it can look after Thai nationals trapped in Wuhan. 

“China has absolute restrictions on entry and exit from Wuhan and does not allow anyone to travel in and out in order to strictly control the spread of the coronavirus. Thailand has to strictly comply with such a measure. Therefore, we cannot fly the C-130 plane to pick up our people, but, what we have to do is to rehearse the guidelines and prepare measures to be ready if and when the evacuation plan is allowed by China,” The Nation quoted Tana as saying. 

Thai authorities had worked on an evacuation plan amid a viral plea from a Thai university student saying she is trapped in Wuhan with insufficient food. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is cutting cross-border travel in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. High-speed trains and ferries that cross the border with China will be suspended from Thursday, chief executive Carrie Lam said.

Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong airlines have announced they would halve the number of flights to mainland China. The former will do so progressively starting tomorrow. Rival Hong Kong airlines said it would cut more than 200 of such flights until Feb. 11. 

Hong Kong has eight confirmed cases so far, all of which are being treated at the Princess Margaret Hospital. 

Indonesia

Hundreds of Indonesian students are currently in Hubei province, including Wuhan, but the Indonesian foreign ministry said it will not be evacuating them.  

“Everything comes down to the confirmation from the Chinese side that evacuation can be done,” spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah was quoted by the South China Morning Post.

“While we are still anticipating that [ideal] condition, what the government has done is to ensure our citizens there, our students, still get a lot of attention.”

Related:

Singapore finds two more Wuhan virus cases, will quarantine at-risk Chinese travelers
Indonesia tightens health monitoring at entry points, cancels flights to and from Wuhan
‘Just enjoy’: Indonesia’s Health Minister urges public not to panic over coronavirus outbreak


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