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