(dpa/NAN) China’s Foreign Ministry has blasted the U.S. government for restricting the entry of Chinese nationals due to the coronavirus outbreak, which this week was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.
“While the WHO has only just specifically advised against any travel restrictions, the U.S. has decided to act in the opposite way.
“This has set a bad example.
“It is certainly not a gesture of goodwill,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
New U.S. measures include a ban on the entry of foreign nationals – other than the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents – who have travelled in China within the last 14 days.
The U.S. also took the “unprecedented” step of placing 195 U.S. citizens who recently returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan in quarantine for 14 days.
Schools, factories and offices across China are due to remain closed even as the week-long Lunar New Year holiday comes to an end.
Apple on Saturday became the latest company to announce the closure of its stores in mainland China to prevent the spread of the virus, with the measure set to remain in place until Feb. 9.
The number of people infected with the new coronavirus in China has risen to more than 11,000, while a total of 259 people have died, according to the most recent figures from Chinese health officials.
Officials in Hubei province in central China, the epicentre of the coronavirus crisis, said an additional 1,347 new cases had been reported in that province alone, bringing the number of infections there to 7,153.
Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, has been placed on lockdown, as have many other Chinese cities.
The number of people infected and China’s national death toll are expected to climb further once other regions report their latest statistics.
On Saturday, more than 3,000 Hong Kong nurses and doctors registered with a newly formed public hospitals union voted in favour of closing the semi-autonomus city’s borders with Mainland China to stem the spread of the virus.
Outside China, more than 100 other people in about two dozen countries have become ill with the virus.
Sri Lanka became the latest country on Saturday to report a case when a Chinese woman travelling there was found to have coronavirus.
Germany confirmed its eighth case the same day.
The European Union and several countries have already flown their citizens out of China, including the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Jordan, Britain, and most recently Sri Lanka, India, and Turkey.
A Turkish military cargo plane carrying 42 people, 32 of them Turkish nationals, landed Saturday evening in capital Ankara from China’s Wuhan, state news agency Anadolu reported.
The evacuees, along with 20 flight and health attendants, are to be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
A German air force jet left Wuhan early Saturday on an evacuation deployment. It arrived in Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon.
According to the state of Hesse’s social minister, there were 124 people on board, including 100 Germans and their relatives.
There were 22 Chinese citizens on board, one U.S. and one Romanian.
The passengers are to spend two weeks in quarantine following medical testing upon their arrival, the Frankfurt health authority said.
Eleven people were examined at a Frankfurt clinic on arrival for various health reasons, with one needing clarification on whether they were infected with the virus.
The flight was delayed after Moscow refused to allow the plane a short layover in the Russian capital as planned.
The plane stopped in Helsinki instead, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
The official explanation given in Moscow was a lack of capacity at the city’s airport. Kramp-Karrenbauer said the German Foreign Office plans to discuss the turn of events thoroughly.
Hundreds of flights to and from China have been cancelled around the world, including those run by Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways Turkish Airlines, United, American Airlines, KLM, Air France, Qantas, and Delta.
Three Philippine airlines – Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific Air and AirAsia Philippines – announced on Saturday they have cancelled flights to and from China.
Russia announced earlier this week it was closing its land border with China, similar to steps taken by China’s other neighbours.
Moscow reported its first case of the virus on Friday.
Both the U.S. and Japan told citizens not to travel to China, with Washington issuing a warning on par with its advisories for Afghanistan and Iran.
The Italian government on Friday declared a six-month state of emergency in response to the first confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the country.
The decision resulted in 5 million euros (5.5 million dollars) being earmarked for civil protection purposes.
Italian cruise company Costa announced on Friday that it would not allow anyone who had been in China in the last 14 days on board – including guests, visitors or crew members of any nationality.
The coronavirus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption – similar to the outbreak of SARS.
SARS, a disease that infected 8,000 people and killed 800 globally, was linked to the consumption of civet cats, another exotic meat.
The coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses. (dpa/NAN)