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Malaysia, HK stop accepting visitors from virus-hit Hubei

Those from surrounding Hubei province also banned in battle to contain virus

Malaysia and Hong Kong have stopped accepting people from the Chinese city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

Malaysia banned the visitors yesterday in an attempt to contain the spread of a deadly virus.

A statement by the Prime Minister's Office said the authorities will temporarily halt all issuance of visas for Chinese citizens from the area with immediate effect, AFP reported.

"The government has decided to suspend temporarily all immigration facilities ... to all China nationals from Wuhan city and the surrounding Hubei province," it said.

Malaysia has reported four cases of the flu-like virus, which started in the central Chinese city and has spread worldwide.

All four, including two children, are in stable condition. They are tourists from Wuhan who entered Malaysia for a holiday via Singapore.

The virus, similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome pathogen, has claimed at least 81 lives - all of them in China.

Malaysia welcomed 2.94 million visitors from China last year and is aiming to raise this to 3.48 million this year, AFP reported.

The Prime Minister's Office said the ban will be lifted when the situation returns to normal.

Meanwhile, a campaign by Malaysians on petition website change.org urging the government to bar Chinese nationals from entering the country has gathered more than 383,000 signatures of the 500,000 target as of yesterday evening.

"The government should think more of the health of Malaysians," the petition said. "Don't wait until there is death among Malaysian people then only the government wants to take some preventive action."

Hong Kong too has imposed a ban. The ban includes those who have been in the province in the past 14 days but excludes Hong Kong citizens.

In the Philippines, nearly 600 Wuhan tourists were sent back to China. The last batch was scheduled to leave yesterday.

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Most of the tourists were in Kalibo, in Aklan province which is the gateway to the resort island of Boracay.

In a related development, a team of experts in Hong Kong who are mapping the outbreak said yesterday that governments need to implement "draconian" travel curbs to stop the coronavirus from becoming a global epidemic, AFP reported.

Scientists at the University of Hong Kong presented a briefing, warning that the spread of the virus was accelerating.

"We have to be prepared that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic," said head of the team, Professor Gabriel Leung.

"Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken sooner, rather than later."

While the epicentre remains in Wuhan and the Hubei province, it has since spread to some of China's biggest cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, and the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Given those cities have major regional and international transport links, it was "highly likely" they would spread the virus further afield once they have self-sustaining outbreaks, Prof Leung added.

Places with confirmed cases of the latest coronavirus

Here are the places that have confirmed cases of the latest coronavirus.

  • China:

More than 2,700 people have been infected, the bulk of them in and around Wuhan.

Nearly all of the 81 who have died were in that region, but officials have confirmed at least five deaths elsewhere.

  • Macau: Six confirmed cases as of yesterday.
  • Hong Kong: 8
  • France: 3
  • Japan: 4
  • Australia: 5
  • United States: 5
  • Malaysia: 4
  • Singapore: 5
  • Thailand: 8
  • Vietnam: 2
  • Cambodia: 1
  • South Korea: 4
  • Taiwan: 4
  • Nepal: 1

 

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