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China orders nationwide checks to identify virus

2020-01-25 HKT 15:38
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  • Security staffs clad in protective clothing check the body temperature of passengers at the entrance of a subway station in Beijing. Photo: AFP
    Security staffs clad in protective clothing check the body temperature of passengers at the entrance of a subway station in Beijing. Photo: AFP
China has ordered nationwide measures to identify and immediately isolate suspected cases of the newly identified coronavirus on trains, aeroplanes and buses, as the death toll and number of patients has skyrocketed.

In Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, the army deployed 450 medical specialists including doctors with experience combating Sars or Ebola.

The National Health Commission ordered inspection stations to be set up across all transportation routes as well as at customs and border inspections across all provinces and regions.

Staff serving passengers must all wear masks, the NHC said. The travel authority must also provide details about those in close contact with the suspected infection case, such as those sitting in the same carriage.

The isolation of suspected cases must be followed by disinfection of the train, plane or bus

The announcement came as the death toll jumped to 41 and the number of cases reached almost 1,300.

The country's most important celebration has been all but cancelled for some 56 million people as authorities expanded travel bans in central Hubei province, now affecting 18 cities.

On Saturday, when they should have been celebrating, citizens of Wuhan stood in line at a pharmacy to buy masks from employees in full-body protective suits and surgical gloves.

On the eastern outskirts of Wuhan – Hubei's capital and the source of the previously unknown 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – police manning a roadblock turned away a handful of vehicles trying to exit the city.

"Nobody can leave," an officer said.

But the police allowed some medical workers who had gone home for the holidays to re-enter the city to help at overwhelmed hospitals.

"They need us to go there, otherwise they will be too exhausted," said one of the women, pulling a suitcase.

But the respiratory contagion continues to spread. Confirmed infections also surged to 1,287, up from 830 reported 24 hours earlier. Most of the deaths and overall cases have been in Hubei.

In a dramatic escalation of the central government's involvement, China deployed 450 military medical staff to Wuhan, state media said.

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across the mainland and Hong Kong in 2003 and spread to a number of other countries.

The new virus has now spread nationwide and to a dozen other countries, with France saying three cases had been confirmed there – the first known European infections.

Australia and Malaysia on Saturday became the latest countries to confirm infections. (AFP)