June 20, 2021

Coronavirus: US and Australia close borders to Chinese arrivals

Countries around the world have closed their borders to arrivals from China, as officials work to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

The US and Australia said they would deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China, where the virus first emerged in December.

Earlier, countries including Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy announced similar travel restrictions.

But global health officials have advised against such measures.

“Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday

The WHO recommends introducing screening at official border crossings. It has warned that closing borders could accelerate the spread of the virus, with travellers entering countries unofficially.

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China has criticised the wave of travel restrictions, accusing foreign governments of ignoring official advice.

“Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “[It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”

What is the latest?
The death toll from the new virus, which is officially called 2019-nCov, now stands at 304.

All the deaths occurred within China and the majority – 294 – were in Hubei province, where the virus originated. Hubei recorded 45 more deaths on Saturday.

Across China there were 2,590 new confirmed infections, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 14,380, state TV quoted the National Health Commission as saying.

About 100 cases have been identified outside China. The UK, US, Russia and Germany have all confirmed cases in recent days.

Meanwhile authorities in Hubei extended the Lunar New Year holiday until 13 February and announced marriage registrations would be suspended to discourage public gatherings.

China started celebrating the holiday on 24 January, and Chinese officials had already extended the break in an attempt to postpone travel by large numbers of people as they return to work.

Hospital workers in Hong Kong have voted to go on strike from Monday unless the territory’s border with mainland China is completely closed. The Hong Kong government has refused to do so citing WHO recommendations.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has overtaken that of the similar Sars epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003.

But the mortality rate of the new virus is much lower than that of Sars, which has led officials to believe it is not as deadly.

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