Coronavirus: Death toll reaches 259 in China; epidemic continues to spread
Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand have suspended direct flights from their countries to mainland China in response to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus epidemic in China has climbed to 259, with 12,000 confirmed cases worldwide. A number of countries are stepping their efforts to evacuate their nationals from China’s Hubei province -- the epicentre of the virus.
Hubei remains under virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down, but small numbers of travellers continue to breach the lockdown.
More than 100 cases have been reported outside China, in 22 countries. India confirmed its first case of the virus -- a student in Kerala who was studying in Wuhan.
Amid fears that the virus could spread further overseas, the US on Saturday announced measures to restrict entry to foreign nationals who have recently been in China. All three major US airlines also said they would cancel flights to mainland China.
American citizens returning from Hubei province will be quarantined for 14 days. The US now has seven confirmed cases of the virus, including the first confirmed instance of the disease spreading from person-to-person in the country.
The US announcement came as other countries around the world scrambled to contain the spread of the new virus, 2019-nCov.
On Friday, the UK confirmed its first two cases, while Spain confirmed its first case.
Most cases outside China involve people who have been to Wuhan. But 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.
The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.
Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, 2,000km from the mainland in a detention centre that has been used to house asylum seekers.
Cities across China continue to implement special measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pathogen. Tianjin, a city in northern China with around 15 million people, said all schools and businesses would be suspended until further notice.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak “a global emergency” earlier this week.
Qantas Airways, Air New Zealand suspend flights to China
Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand said on Saturday they were suspending direct flights from their countries to mainland China in response to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The Australian national carrier's direct flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai will be halted from Feb. 9 until March 29, it said in a statement published Saturday.
Air New Zealand said its Auckland to Shanghai service would be paused during the same time as the Qantas flights.
Qantas said flights from Australia to Hong Kong would not be impacted by the change, it said, as it also warned the February 9 date would be reviewed and could be brought forward depending on demand from customers.
The two airlines join an increasing number of international airlines which are cancelling or severely reducing the number of flights to mainland China as a result of coronavirus.
The decision of the American carriers followed moves by Air France KLM SA, British Airways, Germany’s Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic to halt flights.
Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium.