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coronavirus 2020

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Hong Kong has decided to impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all visitors from mainland China as it battles to prevent the spread of a coronavirus outbreak.

The policy comes into effect on February 8, but officials refused to close the border entirely, as demanded by medical staff who have gone on strike.

Hong Kong, which has 21 confirmed cases and one fatality, suffered 300 deaths in the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

There are 24,300 confirmed coronavirus cases and 490 deaths in mainland China.

Those figures included an additional 4,000 cases and 65 deaths on February 4.

The new virus has spread overseas, with 25 nations confirming a total of 191 cases, although there has so far been only one death, in the Philippines.

The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. On February 5, WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed for $675 million to fund a three-month response plan.

Meanwhile, at least 10 people on board a cruise ship docked in the Japanese port of Yokohama have tested positive for the virus.

The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said anyone arriving from the mainland, including foreigners, would be quarantined for 14 days from February 8, although she did not say how this would be imposed.

It is unclear where the quarantines would take place or whether Hong Kong residents could spend the time at home.

Tens of thousands of people arrived from the mainland on February 4.

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Carrie Lam has not moved to close the border entirely, although thousands of medical staff on February 5 entered the third day of their strike over the issue and have threatened to escalate their action.

Hong Kong will, however, close the Ocean and Kai Tak cruise terminals.

Some 3,600 passengers and crew on the World Dream, docked at Kai Tak, are being tested for the virus after three Chinese passengers who were on the ship between January 19 and 24 tested positive after disembarking.

Hong Kong remains concerned about a repeat of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, although the mortality rate of the new virus is much lower than that of SARS, which was around 9.6%.

There have been massive queues for masks which are in short supply and are selling at inflated prices.

Separately, the Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is asking 27,000 staff to take three weeks unpaid leave over the coming months as it deals with the impact of the outbreak.

According to Japanese health authorities, at least 10 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the port of Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus.

Almost 300 of the 3,700 people on the cruise ship have been tested so far. The number of infected could rise.

The checks began after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who had been on the ship last month fell ill with the virus.

Some 3,600 people on a second cruise ship docked in Hong Kong are also being tested.

Chinese health authorities are stepping up efforts to control the spread of the virus, with approximately 18 million people in the east of the country now required to stay at home.

In Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, 11 large public venues including sports arenas are being turned into makeshift hospitals to provide an additional 10,000 beds for the sick. Two new hospitals have already been built there since the outbreak started.

President Xi Jinping said China’s preventive measures were “achieving a positive effect”, state media reported. He said China was confident and capable of winning the war against the virus, after authorities were criticized for their initial handling of the outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over the outbreak but said it did not yet constitute a “pandemic”, or the worldwide spread of a new disease.

However, the number of cases in China jumped by nearly 4,000 on February 4 alone to more than 24,300, with another 65 deaths bringing the total to 490.

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The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.

There is a much smaller number of cases in countries around the globe other than China – two people outside of mainland China have died of the disease.

The Hong Kong man believed to be the source boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, on January 20, and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25. He was only later found to have tested positive for the virus.

Officials on the cruise ship began screening guests on February 3, and the vessel was placed under quarantine on February 4.

Passengers and crew on the ship will now be under quarantine for 14 days. The incubation period of the virus is believed to be around two weeks.

All 10 cases are in those over the age of 50 and one is in their 80s, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.

Two of them are said to be Japanese, and none are in “serious condition”, it added.

A public health emergency has been declared in the US over the spread of the coronavirus and said it would deny entry to any foreign nationals who have visited China in the past two weeks.

According to authorities, US citizens returning from Hubei province, where the outbreak started, will be quarantined for two weeks.

Nearly 10,000 cases of the new virus have been confirmed, most of them in China, since it emerged in December.

More than 100 cases have been reported outside China, in 22 countries.

On January 31, Beijing said the death toll had risen by 45 to 258 – all of them in China and 249 in Hubei.

Earlier, it emerged that the number of new coronavirus cases worldwide had overtaken that of the SARS epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003.

There were around 8,100 cases of SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – during the eight-month outbreak. In total, 774 people were killed by SARS.

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency over the new outbreak.

WHO spokesman Chris Lindmeier warned that closing borders could in fact accelerate its spread, with travelers entering countries unofficially.

“As we know from other scenarios, be it Ebola or other cases, whenever people want to travel, they will. And if the official paths are not opened, they will find unofficial paths,” he said.

He said the best way to track the virus was at official border crossings.

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In a public statement on January 31, Health Secretary Alex Azar said US citizens returning from Hubei province would face 14 days of quarantine while those returning from other parts of China would be allowed to monitor their own condition for a similar period.

He told reporters: “Following the World Health Organization decision, I have today declared that the coronavirus represents a public health emergency in the United States.”

Citing the need to relieve pressure on authorities, Alex Azar said that foreign nationals who had travelled in China in the past two weeks would be denied entry to the US.

He added: “The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these, and our previous, actions we are working to keep the risk low.”

Another confirmed case in the US on January 31 – in California – brought the number there to seven. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said 191 people were under observation for the disease.

The US announcement came as other countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the new virus, 2019-nCov.

On January 31, the UK confirmed its first two cases.

Estimates by the University of Hong Kong suggest the true total number of cases could be far higher than official figures suggest. Based on mathematical models of the outbreak, experts there say more than 75,000 people may have been infected in the city of Wuhan alone, where the virus first emerged.

Most cases outside China involve people who have been to Wuhan. Germany, Japan, Vietnam, the US, Thailand and South Korea have reported person-to-person cases – patients being infected by people who had travelled to China.

Meanwhile in Wuhan, voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals are under way.

Australia, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and the UK are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.