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Philippines reports first coronavirus death outside China

The outbreak has been declared an international public health emergency.

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Indonesians who arrived from Wuhan are sprayed with antiseptic at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam (Indonesian Foreign Ministry/AP)

Indonesians who arrived from Wuhan are sprayed with antiseptic at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam (Indonesian Foreign Ministry/AP)

Indonesians who arrived from Wuhan are sprayed with antiseptic at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam (Indonesian Foreign Ministry/AP)

The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death from coronavirus outside China, where authorities have tightened quarantine measures in a city that allow only one family member to venture out to buy supplies.

The Philippine Department of Health said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan was admitted on January 25 after experiencing a fever, cough, and sore throat.

He developed severe pneumonia and, in his last few days, “the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, however, the condition of the patient deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise”.

The man’s 38-year-old female companion, also from Wuhan, tested positive for the virus and remains in hospital isolation in Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions.

The US, Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and an assessment from the World Health Organisation that they were unnecessarily hurting trade and travel.

The death toll in China climbed by 45 to 304 and the number of cases by 2,590 to 14,380, according to the National Health Commission.

This is well above the number of those infected in the 2002-03 outbreak of Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which broke out in southern China and spread worldwide.

Meanwhile, six officials in the city of Huanggang, neighbouring the epicentre of Wuhan in Hubei province, have been fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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The Huoshenshan temporary field hospital nears completion in Wuhan (Chinatopix/AP)

The Huoshenshan temporary field hospital nears completion in Wuhan (Chinatopix/AP)

AP/PA Images

The Huoshenshan temporary field hospital nears completion in Wuhan (Chinatopix/AP)

It quoted the mayor as saying the city’s “capabilities to treat the patients remained inadequate and there is a severe shortage in medical supplies such as protective suits and medical masks”.

The trading centre of Wenzhou in coastal Zhejiang province confined people to their homes, allowing only one family member to venture out every other day to buy necessary supplies. Huanggang imposed similar measures on Saturday.

A 1,000-bed hospital specially built to handle cases of the virus in Wuhan is expected to open on Monday, just 10 days after construction began. A second hospital is to open soon after.

With the outbreak showing little sign of abating, authorities in Hubei and elsewhere have extended the Lunar New Year holiday, due to end this week, well into February.

The annual travel crunch of millions of people returning from their hometowns to the cities is thought to pose a major threat of secondary infection at a time when authorities are encouraging people to avoid public gatherings.

All Hubei schools will postpone the opening of the new term until further notice and students from elsewhere who visited over the holiday will also be excused from classes.

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Visitors wear face masks at the Comic Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Visitors wear face masks at the Comic Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

AP/PA Images

Visitors wear face masks at the Comic Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Far away on China’s south-east coast, the manufacturing hub of Wenzhou put off the opening of government offices until February 9, private businesses until February 17 and schools until March 1.

With nearly 10 million people, Wenzhou has reported 241 confirmed cases of the virus, one of the highest levels outside Hubei.

Similar measures have been announced in the provinces and cities of Heilongjiang, Shandong, Guizhou, Hebei and Hunan, while the major cities of Shanghai and Beijing were on indefinite leave pending developments.

Despite imposing drastic travel restrictions at home, China has chafed at those imposed by foreign governments, criticising Washington’s order barring entry to most non-citizens who visited China in the past two weeks.

Apart from affecting China’s international reputation, such steps could worsen a domestic economy already growing at its lowest rate in decades.

New Zealand announced Sunday it is temporarily banning travellers from China to protect the South Pacific region from the virus.

The 14-day ban applies to foreigners leaving China but not to New Zealand residents. New Zealand also raised its travel advice for China to do not travel, the highest level.

Among a growing number of airlines suspending flights to mainland China was Qatar Airways. The Doha-based carrier said on its website that its flights would stop Monday.

It blamed “significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by a number of countries” for the suspension of flights.

Indonesia and Oman also halted flights to China, as did Saudi Arabia’s flagship national carrier, Saudia.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run media reported that 10 Saudi students were evacuated from Wuhan on a special flight. It said the students would be screened upon arrival and quarantined for 14 days.

This weekend, South Korea and India flew hundreds of their citizens out of Wuhan.

A Turkish military transport plane carrying 42 people arrived in Ankara from Wutan on Saturday night.

The 32 Turkish, six Azerbaijani, three Georgian nationals and an Albanian will remain under observation for 14 days, together with 20 personnel who took part in the evacuation, health minister Fahrettin Koca said.

A second French-chartered plane was flying to France with 300 evacuees, including French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks and some citizens of African countries.

Officials said none of the passengers had symptoms of the virus on leaving China. Of the 180 French people flown back from Wuhan on Friday, one showed symptoms of being infected and was taken to hospital for testing, French health minister Agnes Buzyn said.

The others were quarantined for 14 days.

Europe so far has 23 people infected with the virus: Germany with eight, all tied to the same car parts factory; France with six; Russia, Italy and the UK with two each, and Finland, Sweden and Spain each with one.

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A government worker takes the temperature of a passer-by at a checkpoint in Suining in south-western China’s Sichuan Province (Chinatopix/AP)

A government worker takes the temperature of a passer-by at a checkpoint in Suining in south-western China’s Sichuan Province (Chinatopix/AP)

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A government worker takes the temperature of a passer-by at a checkpoint in Suining in south-western China’s Sichuan Province (Chinatopix/AP)

On Sunday, South Korea reported three more cases for a total of 15. They include an evacuee, a Chinese relative of a man who tested positive and a man who returned from Wuhan. India reported a second case, also in southern Kerala state.

South Korea also barred foreigners who have stayed or travelled to Hubei province within the last 14 days from entering the country.

Indonesia flew back 241 nationals from Wuhan on Sunday and quarantined them on the remote Natuna Islands for two weeks.

Several hundred residents protested against the move, with one saying: “This is not because we do not have a sense of solidarity with fellow nationals. But because we fear they could infect us with the deadly virus from China.”

Vietnam counted its seventh case, a Vietnamese-American man who had a two-hour layover in Wuhan on his way from the US to Ho Chi Minh City. It ordered schools to close for at least a week in 19 of the country’s 54 provinces and cities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which together account for more than four million students.

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Government workers in protective suits carry groceries for a family under home quarantine in Zouping in eastern China’s Shandong Province (Chinatopix/AP)

Government workers in protective suits carry groceries for a family under home quarantine in Zouping in eastern China’s Shandong Province (Chinatopix/AP)

AP/PA Images

Government workers in protective suits carry groceries for a family under home quarantine in Zouping in eastern China’s Shandong Province (Chinatopix/AP)

The virus’ rapid spread in two months prompted the WHO on Thursday to declare it a global emergency.

That declaration “flipped the switch” from a cautious attitude to recommending governments prepare for the possibility the virus might spread, said the WHO representative in Beijing, Gauden Galea.

Most cases reported so far have been people who visited China or their family members.

WHO said it was especially concerned that some cases abroad involved human-to-human transmission.

“Countries need to get ready for possible importation in order to identify cases as early as possible and in order to be ready for a domestic outbreak control, if that happens,” Mr Galea told The Associated Press.

Both the new virus and Sars are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that cause the common cold.

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