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US and Australia bring in travel restrictions as Chinese death toll rises to 259

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Passengers wearing facemasks arrive from different provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 1. Photo: Getty

Passengers wearing facemasks arrive from different provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 1. Photo: Getty

AFP via Getty Images

Passengers wearing facemasks arrive from different provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 1. Photo: Getty

The number of deaths from the coronavirus in China has risen by 46 to 259, the country's health authority said yesterday, as the US and Australia said they would deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China.

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 Organisation (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.

The central province of Hubei, the centre of the epidemic, is under a virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down. Elsewhere in China, authorities have placed restrictions on travel and business activity.

In its latest figures, China's national health commission said there were 2,102 new confirmed infections in China on Friday, bringing the cumulative total to 11,791. Around two dozen other countries have reported another 137 cases.

Infection numbers appear to be growing by 20pc every day. However, the data from the usually secretive Chinese state would suggest it is less deadly than the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed nearly 800 people of the some 8,000 it infected, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.

In Beijing, counters were set up at the entrances of housing estates, where volunteers wearing red armbands and masks noted down details of residents coming back from their hometowns after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak, illustrating concerns about a slowdown in economic activity in China and elsewhere.

Many nations have put on charter flights to repatriate citizens from China and then place them in isolation for around two weeks.

Many of the costly private clinics catering to foreigners in China have started to turn people with fevers away, raising concerns among expats that they would have to rely on crowded local facilities.

Reuters