Countries ban China arrivals as virus death toll hits 213

BEIJING: Countries stepped up travel restrictions on arrivals from China on Friday after a global health emergency was declared over a viral epidemic that has killed 213 people.
Nearly 10,000 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus and new cases were found abroad, with more than 20 countries now affected by the disease.
The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency, but said it was not recommending any international trade or travel restrictions and urged the numerous countries already taking such measures to reconsider.
Nevertheless, countries intensified travel curbs.
The US State Department raised its warning alert to the highest level, telling Americans “do not travel” to China and urged those already there to leave.
Singapore, Vietnam and Mongolia went a step further.
Citing a likely “sharper rise” in the spread of the virus, Singapore’s government barred arrivals and transit passengers who visited China in the past 14 days, and stopped issuing all forms of new visas to Chinese passport holders.
Mongolia will ban Chinese nationals and foreigners coming from the neighbouring country by plane, train or road from Saturday until March 2. Mongolians will be barred from going to China over the same period.
In Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered the suspension of new tourist visas for Chinese citizens and foreigners who have been in China over the last two weeks.
Trade with China will also be “discouraged” until the outbreak abates, he said.
Japan, meanwhile, joined Britain, Germany and other countries that have recommended that their citizens avoid China.
The WHO has declared a global health emergency five times since the practice began in 2007 — for swine flu, polio, Zika and twice for Ebola.
It allows the UN health body to issue recommendations that the international community is expected to follow.
But the WHO warned Friday that closing borders was probably ineffective in halting transmissions of the virus and could even accelerate its spread.
“As we know from other scenarios, be it Ebola or other cases whenever people want to travel… if the official paths are not open, they will find unofficial paths,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in Geneva. — AFP