China orders nationwide measures to detect virus on flights, trains, buses

China orders nationwide measures to detect virus on flights, trains, buses

Deadly coronavirus has so far caused 41 deaths, with number of cases jumping to 1,300

A worker wearing a protective facemask sweeps a street in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP)
A worker wearing a protective facemask sweeps a street in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

BEIJING — China has ordered nationwide measures to identify and immediately isolate suspected cases of a deadly virus on trains, airplanes and buses, as the death toll and number of patients has skyrocketed.

Inspection stations will be set up and passengers with suspected pneumonia must be “immediately transported” to a medical center, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

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

The statement said “all departments of transportation” must “strictly” introduce prevention and control measures including screening measures in airports, railway stations, bus stations and ports.

The measures apply across all transportation routes as well as at customs and border inspections.

Policemen wearing protective facemasks to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central city of Wuhan, are seen in front of the closed gate of the Lama Temple in Beijing on January 25, 2020 (NOEL CELIS / AFP)

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 order applies across all provinces and regions.

All areas should formulate “emergency response plans” to the outbreak including training medical staff.

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

In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, the Chinese army deployed 450 medical specialists to overwhelmed hospitals.

Pharmacy workers wearing protective clothes and masks serve customers in Wuhan on January 25, 2020 (Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

The medics, who arrived on military aircraft late Friday, include doctors with experience combating SARS or Ebola and will be dispatched to hospitals that are reportedly short on beds due to a crush of infected patients and worried locals.

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003 and spread to a number of other countries.

It 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.

Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland, and a section of the Great Wall are among many attractions that have closed as a precaution.

China Eastern Airlines aircrew arrive at Sydney airport after landing on a plane from Shanghai on January 25, 2020 (PETER PARKS / AFP)

China’s aggressive response has won praise, especially compared to its handling of SARS, when it was accused of reacting sluggishly and stonewalling the international community.

“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” US President Donald Trump tweeted, hours after the United States confirmed its second case.

“The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency,” he added.

“It will all work out well.”

A nurse waits for transportation as she re-enters the city to return to Wuhan Yaxin General Hospital, on one of the roads blocked by the police to restrict people leaving Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on January 25, 2020, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city (Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

The virus emerged at a bad time for containment, with hundreds of millions of Chinese rushing home for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The outbreak emerged in late December, traced to a Wuhan seafood and live animal market that sold a vast range of exotic animals and other bushmeat.

The World Health Organization on Thursday stopped short of declaring a global emergency, which would have prompted greater international cooperation, including possible trade and travel restrictions.

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