Coronavirus Kills Its First Victim Outside China as Toll Grows

Date: Monday, February 3, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon sets up quarantine centers as the U.S. count of people sickened climbs to eight

The newly identified coronavirus claimed its first life outside China, as the number of U.S. cases ticked up to eight and the Pentagon said it was setting up quarantine centers for travelers who screened positive for the illness.

A 44-year-old man in the Philippines from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began in December, died on Saturday, the Philippine Department of Health said on Sunday. The man was one of two confirmed cases in the Philippines, the other being his 38-year-old female companion.

The number of cases has expanded dramatically around the world to more than 20 countries. There are now nearly 15,000 cases of the virus in China, resulting in more than 300 deaths overall. Some 150 people outside China have been sickened.

Heath officials said a University of Massachusetts Boston student in his 20s who had recently visited Wuhan had been infected, raising the number of cases in the U.S. to eight. The man, who went to doctors soon after returning from China, is in isolation and his close contacts are being monitored, they said.

Countries and airlines around the world have limited their contact with China after the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have raised their travel alerts for all of China to their highest levels, “Do Not Travel,” and Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines imposed new restrictions over the weekend.

The U.S. has set entry restrictions on foreign nationals and quarantines on Americans returning from Hubei, the province at the outbreak’s center.

The Pentagon announced it was preparing four military bases, in California, Colorado and Texas, as centers for overseas travelers who are screened and identified as needing to be quarantined. It said it acted at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, and was prepared to provide quarters for up to 1,000 people through the end of February.

No one had yet been received at any of the four installations, Defense Department officials said Sunday.

Military officials would only provide housing support for people potentially infected by the virus to have individual rooms, and wouldn’t be responsible for caring for the patients, the statement said. People found by Health and Human Services personnel to be ill with the virus would be transferred to local civilian hospitals, the Pentagon said.

The Department of Homeland Security also announced new precautions, saying that U.S. citizens who have traveled in China within the last 14 days will be rerouted to one of seven designated airports for screening. Foreign nationals who have traveled to China within 14 days will typically be denied entry to the U.S., with exceptions made for immediate family and other cases, the department said.

The seven airports for screening Americans coming from China are New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and the international airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma, Honolulu and Atlanta.

The U.S. Coast Guard also said it would bar ships from entering U.S. ports if they had been to China within the previous 14 days or taken on board passengers that had been to China within 14 days. The order said the “temporary measures are in place to safeguard the American public.”

Under the order, passenger ships arriving that had stopped in China will be allowed to enter the U.S. if it has been more than 14 days since any passengers have been in China and if all passengers are symptom free.

The Coast Guard said cargo ships will be allowed into U.S. ports even if they have been to China within the previous 14 days as long as they have no sick crew members. But crew members would have to remain on their vessel “except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations.”

The order doesn’t include ships that have been to Hong Kong or Macau.

In Hong Kong, thousands of hospital workers voted to press ahead with a five-day strike starting Monday, in a bid to force the government to fully shut its borders to mainland China as coronavirus cases climb there.

Chinese authorities have been pushing to learn more about the new virus, but they have made little progress in stopping it from spreading.

Restrictions on citizens’ movements expanded to the coastal city of Wenzhou where the government closed 46 high-speed toll stations and prohibited households from allowing more than one person out every two days, marking the first city outside of Hubei province to impose such drastic measures.

U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the U.S. was prepared to send a team of American health professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help Beijing but that Chinese officials hadn’t responded to the offer.

“I think we can be helpful if we’re on the ground right now,” Mr. O’Brien said Sunday on CBS. “We’ve made the offer, and we’ll see if they accept the offer.”

Mr. O’Brien spoke as reports indicated Chinese officials may have contributed to the spread of the virus by purposely hiding initial indications of the disease. Mr. O’Brien said Beijing had begun to be more forthcoming.

“We’ve asked them for transparency,” he said.

In an attempt to support Chinese financial markets, which are scheduled to reopen on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China’s central bank said it would inject 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) of liquidity into the market.

 

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