The Latest: WHO: Virus could overwhelm Africa health systems

The Latest: WHO: Virus could overwhelm Africa health systems

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BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

Sweden has reported its first case of a new virus that has sickened thousands.

The Public Health Agency of Sweden said Friday the woman had traveled to the Wuhan region of China and arrived in Sweden on Jan. 24. Illnesses with the new type of coronavirus have been concentrated in China's central Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan.

The woman contacted medical authorities after coughing, which is one of the symptoms of the infection.

She is the second confirmed case in the Nordic region after a Chinese tourist in Finland tested positive earlier this week.

More than 20 other countries beyond China have confirmed cases, mostly in Chinese or people who recently traveled there.


10 p.m.

A World Health Organization official in Africa says the new virus “could overwhelm health systems we have in Africa.”

Dr. Michel Yao, emergency operations program manager in Africa, spoke to The Associated Press on Friday after WHO declared the new coronavirus a global health emergency and cited “countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”

Yao said WHO has listed high-priority countries with direct China flights or many visitors from China, where thousands of people have been infected.

The high-priority countries include Algeria, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Within the next few days, at least 20 countries in Africa will be supplied with the reagent needed to test samples for the virus, Yao said.

He defended the precautionary measures amid other urgent health crises in Africa including outbreaks of Ebola and measles in Congo. “If turns out to be a mild virus, that’s perfectly fine. If it’s dangerous and you let it go and decimate people, you have failed in public health,” he said.

9 p.m.

Russia has reported the first two cases of a new virus in the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Friday that two Chinese nationals in Russia's Siberian regions of Zabaykalye and Tyumen tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The two men are in isolation and haven't been in contact with anyone, so there is no risk of the virus spreading further, added Anna Popova, head of Russia's public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.

Russia has closed its land border with China and suspended most train traffic between the countries. Golikova said Friday most flights to China would be halted as well and Russians would be evacuated from Hubei province.

The country also will temporarily stop issuing work visas to Chinese nationals.

Similar steps have been taken by other countries to try to stop the spread of the virus that has sickened thousands, mostly in Hubei.


8 p.m.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has resisted pressure to complete shut down the border with mainland China, saying it was not the answer to stem the spread of a virus.

Medical workers have threatened to strike if the government refuses to do so, and some restaurant owners have also echoed calls to bar all mainland visitors.

Lam said the number of mainland arrivals has shrunk since Hong Kong this week suspended ferry and high-speed trains to the mainland, as well as shut six smaller border checkpoints.

She urged healthcare workers to reconsider their planned strike, saying the government will provide all necessary resources and give them first priority to the city’s limited supply of protective equipment and masks.

Lam said countries shouldn’t adopt a “discriminatory approach” in handling the new illnesses.

Lam said schools would be closed now until March 2, and civil servants can also choose to work from home for another week.


7:30 p.m.

A planeload of about 200 French citizens from the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan has landed in southern France, and its passengers are being taken to a Mediterranean vacation resort for 14 days of quarantine.

The plane touched down Friday at the Istres military air base, and the passengers are going to a resort in Carry-le-Rouet, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Marseille, according to the regional administration.

The French government requisitioned the resort, over objections from the mayor. The resort is little-used in the winter, and the mayor said it was chosen because it’s secluded and accessible only by one private road, and a private beach.

Mayor Jean Montagnac held a news conference Friday to try to calm residents worried about potential spread of the virus.

Town officials also fear quarantining Wuhan exiles in Carry-le-Rouet could keep people away from a local sea urchin culinary festival this weekend.

France has six confirmed cases of the new virus that has sickened thousands of people, mostly in China.


7 p.m.

Singapore will bar all visitors from China, becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to tighten border controls to stop the spread of a new virus.

The health ministry says from Saturday, all Chinese travelers as well as foreigners who have visited China in the past two weeks will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. It says short-term and multiple-visit visas previously issued to those with Chinese passports will also be suspended.

Singaporeans, permanent residents and Chinese who have long-term passes can return but will be quarantined.

Singapore had previously barred Chinese travelers only from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Singapore also Friday reported a total of 16 cases, one of them a Singaporean who had been evacuated from Wuhan on Thursday.


6 p.m.

Thai health authorities have confirmed five more cases of a new type of virus and say one of them is a taxi driver who is the country's first to become ill through human-to-human contact.

The new cases reported Friday bring Thailand's total to 19 cases. All of the others are Chinese visitors or people who traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Thailand is a major destination for tourists from China, more than 10 million of whom visited the country last year.

Local spread of the illness is a growing concern because it suggests the virus can spread more easily, making it harder to contain. The World Health Organization cited such cases when it declared the outbreak a global emergency Thursday.


5 p.m.

Germany's foreign ministry is urging citizens to postpone non-essential travel to China and explicitly discouraging any travel to Hubei province, the epicenter of an outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

Officials say Berlin plans to send a military jet to pick up dozens of Germans from the city of Wuhan on Saturday. They will be flown to Frankfurt and kept in quarantine for 14 days.

So far, Germany has confirmed five cases of 2019-nCoV, as the new virus that originated in central China is officially called. All five cases involve employees of German auto parts supplier Webasto who came into contact with a visiting employee who had traveled from Shanghai.

China has reported 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213 as of Friday, and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency.


Corrects that visiting employee had traveled from Shanghai, not Wuhan.


4:25 p.m.

Alarm is growing among the estimated thousands of African students stranded in the locked-down Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of an outbreak of a new coronavirus.

An association of Ethiopian students says in a statement released Friday that students are demanding “to be repatriated back to Ethiopia as quickly as possible.”

The estimated 300 Ethiopian students in Wuhan have submitted the request to embassy representatives, who are communicating with Chinese officials about a growing concern over food shortages.

The statement says that the stranded students are “shocked” by the outbreak but “luckily no Ethiopian has so far been affected.”

Students from Kenya, Cameroon and elsewhere have expressed similar worries as richer nations begin evacuating some of their citizens.


4:05 p.m.

Pakistani authorities say that they are halting all flights to and from China with immediate effect in light of the outbreak of a new virus.

The government Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar says that “under this decision all flight to and from China will remain suspended until February 2.”

He says this affects 22 weekly flights, including two Pakistan International Airlines flights.

The move panicked relatives of Pakistanis stranded in China a day after top Pakistani health official Zafar Mirza said that Islamabad had no immediate plan to evacuate any of some 30,000 nationals living in China.

Mirza says four Pakistani students in China have been diagnosed with the new virus and their conditions are listed as stable. About 500 Pakistani students were in Wuhan — the site of the outbreak — at the time it surfaced. Mirza said although the virus has killed 170 people in China, authorities in Beijing have done a good job of containing it by taking swift measures.


3 p.m.

South Korea has reported four more cases of a new virus, including human-to-human transmissions, bringing its number of infections to 11.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the new cases included three people who had contacted the country’s fifth and sixth patients. Another case involves a 62-year-old woman who returned from a visit to the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Qingdao on Jan. 23. Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak.

The agency earlier Friday reported a 28-year-old man as the seventh case. He returned home on the same flight with the 62-year-old woman.

China has reported 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213 as of Friday, and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency.


2:15 p.m.

Kimchi probably isn’t a wonder drug against a new virus that has sickened thousands in Asia.

South Korea’s Health Ministry said Friday the Korean staple dish made from fermented cabbage, chili peppers and garlic would provide no protection against the new type of coronavirus originating from China.

In a press release aimed at correcting misunderstandings about the illness and calming public fears, the ministry also says eating kimchi imported from China wouldn’t necessarily put a person at greater risk of infection.

The ministry says the best protection against the virus, which is spread through close personal contact and droplet infection, is to wash hands frequently.

During the SARS epidemic of 2003, some South Korean researchers claimed that kimchi possibly explained the country’s relatively low number of cases, saying that a type of bacteria created during the fermentation process would have been helpful in fighting off infections.

While such claims reportedly led to a boost in kimchi sales across Asia, most experts saw the argument as dubious.


1:55 p.m.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry is urging its citizens not to travel to China because of the possibility of the further spread of a new virus.

Japan had previously warned people not to travel to the epicenter of the virus in Wuhan in China.

Officials in China and around the world are trying to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus. The U.S. has also advised against travel to China.

China has reported 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213 as of Friday, and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency.


10:20 a.m.

Japan and South Korea have sent planes to fly back home more of their nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened nearly 10,000 people.

A chartered flight carrying more than 360 South Koreans arrived at an airport in Seoul on Friday. The evacuees underwent screenings for fever before boarding buses to quarantine facilities established in the central towns of Asan and Jincheon.

Residents there have protested government plans to place the evacuees in their neighborhoods, throwing eggs and other objects at visiting government officials.

A third charter plane from Japan meanwhile brought back 149 evacuees.

South Korea on Friday confirmed its seventh case, a 28-year-old man who visited Wuhan and developed a fever. Japan has 11 cases, and both countries have reported human-to-human transmissions.

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