World scram­bles to con­tain spread­ing virus from China

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Alexan­dra Stevenson

HONG KONG — New walls are ris­ing be­tween China and the world as the coun­try grap­ples with a fast-mov­ing coro­n­avirus and its mount­ing death toll.

Viet­nam on Satur­day be­came the lat­est coun­try to try to close it­self off from the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try, bar­ring all flights from and to China. Over­all, nearly 10,000 flights have been can­celed since the out­break.

Aus­tralia joined the United States in tem­po­rar­ily deny­ing en­try to nonci­t­i­zens who have re­cently trav­eled to the coun­try. Ja­pan also said it would bar for­eign­ers who had re­cently been in the Chi­nese prov­ince at the cen­ter of the out­break, or whose pass­ports were is­sued there.

At least 24 coun­tries have re­ported cases since China in­formed the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion about the virus in late De­cem­ber. On Satur­day, the Philip­pines re­ported the first virus death out­side of China, a 44-year-old man from Wuhan.

As the death toll in­creases and more coun­tries cut off China, the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis caused by the virus is in­ten­si­fy­ing there, with au­thor­i­ties com­ing un­der scru­tiny for their slow ini­tial re­sponse.

Ma­jor busi­nesses have started to ac­knowl­edge the ef­fect the virus is hav­ing on their bot­tom lines.

Ear­lier, Ap­ple had said it was rerout­ing part of its sup­ply chain but would shut only one store.

By Satur­day, it said it would close all 42 of its stores in main­land China, its third-big­gest mar­ket and where it gen­er­ates about one-sixth of its sales, un­til Feb. 9.

It was the lat­est move by some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies to shift sup­ply chains and ad­just op­er­a­tions in China.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials have been chang­ing course af­ter their ini­tially slow re­sponse to the virus. A gov­ern­ment ex­pert ad­mit­ted he had been wrong to say the virus was un­der con­trol in early Jan­uary. And the mayor of a town near Wuhan, the cen­ter of the out­break, was fired for neg­li­gence af­ter the dis­abled teenage son of a quar­an­tined pa­tient died.

The cause of death was still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties also ap­peared to be tak­ing tougher mea­sures to sti­fle crit­i­cism, for ex­am­ple scrub­bing the in­ter­net of an ar­ti­cle crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment in The Global Times, a tabloid con­trolled by the gov­ern­ing Com­mu­nist Party.

As the num­ber of deaths and new cases rapidly rose — 304 deaths and 14,380 cases by Sun­day — in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and for­eign coun­tries re­acted.

The State Depart­ment is­sued a travel alert urg­ing Amer­i­cans not to go to China be­cause of the public health threat. Delta, United and Amer­i­can Air­lines sus­pended all flights be­tween the U.S. and main­land China.

By the time the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion de­clared the out­break a global health emer­gency Thurs­day, some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies had barred their em­ploy­ees from any travel to China, and coun­tries be­gan to close their bor­ders.

China’s For­eign Min­istry, for its part, has blasted the U.S. gov­ern­ment for re­strict­ing the en­try of Chi­nese na­tion­als due to the coro­n­avirus out­break.

“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,” min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said.

Even as some coun­tries took dras­tic mea­sures, their lead­ers also ac­knowl­edged the eco­nomic im­pact.

“It’s go­ing to hurt us,” warned Lee Hsien Loong, prime min­is­ter of Sin­ga­pore, af­ter an­nounc­ing that the small is­land state would bar all Chi­nese vis­i­tors and for­eign­ers who had trav­eled to China within the past 14 days.

Restau­rants, travel op­er­a­tors and ho­tels in Sin­ga­pore

were all “bound to be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected,” Lee said.

On Satur­day, Aus­tralia joined the U.S. and a grow­ing list of other coun­tries and cities that have is­sued travel warn­ings in an at­tempt to stem the flow of peo­ple who could be car­ry­ing the virus. The U.S. gov­ern­ment said Fri­day that it would tem­po­rar­ily deny en­try to nonci­t­i­zens who had re­cently trav­eled to China.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment also urged its cit­i­zens to “re­con­sider their need to travel” to China.

Qan­tas, Aus­tralia’s big­gest air­line, can­celed its main­land flights, though it said it would still fly to Hong Kong.

Tai­wan said it would bar Chi­nese na­tion­als from the south­ern coastal prov­ince of Guang­dong from en­try be­gin­ning Sun­day and trav­el­ers who re­cently vis­ited the area would be sub­ject to a manda­tory 14-day quar­an­tine.

Viet­nam, China’s neigh­bor along its south­ern bor­der, joined Sin­ga­pore and Mon­go­lia in es­sen­tially shut­ting off its bor­ders to China.

ADEM ALTAN/AFP

Pas­sen­gers grab their lug­gage as they dis­em­bark a Turk­ish plane Satur­day in Ankara af­ter be­ing repa­tri­ated from the Chi­nese city of Wuhan, which is the cen­ter of the out­break.

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