Virus Death Toll Surges Past 300 People In China As More Countries Set Travel Restrictions

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has surged past 300 people, with a growing number of countries reporting their first cases and many imposing Chinese travel bans in an effort to slow the spread.

Chinese health officials early on February 2 said that at least 304 people have died from the virus that broke out in the central city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. They said that 14,380 cases had been confirmed in the country.

The latest death toll was an increase of 45 from the previous day, with 2,590 new infections confirmed on February 1 alone.

Meanwhile, a death has been confirmed in the Philippines — the first fatality reported outside of China. The victim, a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, appears to have been infected before arriving in the island nation.

Russia, Britain, and Sweden were among the most-recent countries confirming their first infections as the virus has now been reported in more than two dozen nations.

The United States and Australia are among countries putting sweeping, albeit temporary, travel restrictions on Chinese nationals or those who have traveled to China within the past two weeks.

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar had said that “foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents…will be denied entry into the United States” if they have recently traveled to China.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mark Esper on February 1 approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services for the potential use of military bases to handle 1,000 people who may have to be quarantined upon arrival from overseas due to the virus.

U.S. authorities also took the “unprecedented” action to put 195 U.S. citizens who recently returned from Wuhan in quarantine for 14 days.

The moves came as U.S. health officials on February 1 confirmed an eighth case of the virus in the United States.

The United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, and other nations have advised their citizens not to travel to China.

The Russian government said the country had closed its 4,200-kilometer border with China, one of the longest in the world.

On January 31, Russia reported its first two cases of coronavirus — in the Zabaikalye region, which borders China, and in the Tyumen region bordering Kazakhstan.

China’s Foreign Ministry blasted the U.S. decision to restrict entry of Chinese nationals because of the outbreak, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a public health emergency by U.S. authorities.

“While the WHO has only just specifically advised against any travel restrictions, the U.S. has decided to act in the opposite way. This has set a bad example. It is certainly not a gesture of goodwill,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Beijing has insisted it can contain the virus and called Washington’s advice against travel to China “unkind.”

China’s central bank said it would offer financial support to businesses in the country damaged by the health emergency.

Nevertheless, public anger in China has continued to boil over as Wuhan’s top official acknowledged that authorities there had acted too slowly.

“If strict control measures had been taken earlier, the result would have been better than now,” said Ma Guoqiang, the Communist Party chief for Wuhan.

Wuhan officials have been criticized online for withholding information about the outbreak until late December despite knowing of it weeks earlier.

China has since been quarantining whole cities in Hubei, affecting tens of millions of people.

The virus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption.

It spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes, and the incubation period is between one and 14 days. There are some indications it might be able to spread before any symptoms are apparent.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa
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