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    The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday confirmed the first cases in the Mideast of the new Chinese virus that causes flu-like symptoms, saying doctors now were treating a family that had just come from a city at the epicenter of the outbreak. The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency made the announcement citing the Health and Prevention Ministry, but offered no details on where the stricken family lived nor where they were receiving treatment. It also did not offer a number of those afflicted by the virus, other than to say the cases came from “members of a family arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan.” The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways and is a hub for global air travel. It wasn't immediately clear how the family left Wuhan and made it all the way to the UAE. China shut down Wuhan's airport and other transportation in the city last Thursday to stop the spread of the virus. The lockdown has since expanded to include 17 cities with more than 50 million people in all. Emirati officials are taking 'all the necessary precautions in accordance with the scientific recommendations, conditions and standards approved by the World Health Organization,' the ministry said. “The general health condition is not a cause for concern.' The new type of coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. It causes flu-like symptoms, such as cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses. It's from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 6,000 people in the mainland and more than a dozen other countries. China's death toll has passed 130. Several countries have confirmed cases of the virus, with most of them being Chinese visitors, people who visited Wuhan or family members in close contact with the sick. The source of the virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, the World Health Organization said most cases reported to date “have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness.”
  • The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, wearing masks but showing a sense of relief. Five of the 206 evacuees had cough and fever and were taken to a designated Tokyo hospital specializing in treating infectious diseases, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session, adding that they were still checking if any passengers were ill with the virus. Japan's government sent a chartered flight to pick up the evacuees, most of whom resided close to the Wuhan seafood market linked to the first cases of the new virus that has infected thousands. “We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly when we were still in the city,” Takeo Aoyama, an employee at Nippon Steel Corp.'s subsidiary in Wuhan, told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport while he waited for a bus to take him to a hospital for another health check. “My uneasiness peaked when the number of patients started to spike,” he said, wearing a mask that muffled his voice. “I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on my seat (on the plane),” he said. Other evacuees seated near him also seemed relieved but tired. Japan has seven cases including what could be the first human-to-human infection in the country, a man in his 60s who worked as a tour bus driver and served two groups of Chinese tourists from Wuhan from Jan. 8-16. The man, a resident of Nara in western Japan, developed cough, joint ache and chills on Jan. 14, the Health Ministry said. Three days after developing initial symptoms, he visited a hospital but was tested negative for the new coronavirus and was not hospitalized until he returned Saturday with signs of pneumonia. Officials said about 650 Japanese citizens and their families in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hebei province had sought to return home. Aoyama said there are more than 400 others still in Wuhan, including those working for a Japanese supermarket chain that has stayed open to serve customers who need food and other necessities and supplies. He said it was important to step up preventive measures in Japan, but “I hope we can also provide support for the Chinese people, while we also help Japanese people who are still there.” Another evacuee, Takayuki Kato, said that all those wishing to leave Wuhan had submitted their health inquiry form and had their temperature taken before departure. While on board, a doctor came to each passenger to take temperature again and check their condition, he said. Kato said he did not panic as he was able to monitor news online and via local media, but “I was shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That’s when the situation drastically changed.” Aoyama and Kato, along with the rest of the evacuees who were not showing immediate signs of infection, were expected to be taken to the National Center for Global Health and Medicine for further checks and a virus test. Health officials said that evacuees will be sent home on chartered buses to keep them from using public transportation and stay home for about two weeks until their virus test results are out, though it's not legally binding. Others who need to travel long distance home are asked to stay at designated hotels. Abe's Cabinet designated the new coronavirus as an infectious disease Tuesday, allowing hospitalization and treatment of the patients compulsory, but the measure is taking effect Feb. 7 because of the required 10-day notification period, causing concerns that it may be too late. Former defense minister Gen Nakatani told a ruling party meeting that “If you abide by law and people die, it's useless,' Kyodo News quoted him as saying. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told the parliamentary session Wednesday that the government would have to send two more flights to evacuate the rest of the people wishing to return home. He did not say when a second flight is expected. Japan's government is preparing to send another chartered flight to evacuate the others later Wednesday, according to Kyodo News service. ___ Associated Press journalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report. ___ Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
  • Last Wednesday evening, top officials in the central Chinese city of Wuhan settled into their seats at an auditorium for a Lunar New Year gala — even as a new virus that originated in their city was spreading rapidly. Dozens of actors, actresses and musicians performed, some despite having sniffles and sneezes, the Hubei Folk Song and Dance Ensemble said in a now-deleted social media post. The next morning, residents woke to news that officials had ordered the city sealed, its airport closed and its train and bus stations shut down. Thousands of people flooded Wuhan's hospitals, which pleaded for donations of masks, disinfectant and medical supplies as overworked doctors and nurses grappled with the crowds. It wasn’t long before simmering anger exploded online. Hundreds fumed at a report on the festivities on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, asking why officials were enjoy gala shows instead of dealing with the epidemic or shortages of supplies. As China institutes one of the largest quarantines in modern history, locking down more than 50 million people in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, questions are swirling about the city and provincial governments’ sluggish initial response to an outbreak that has infected thousands of people and killed more than 100. For two weeks, from Jan. 5 to 16, the city reported virtually no new cases, while hundreds of officials gathered in Wuhan, the provincial capital, for Hubei's two biggest political meetings of the year. It was only after a medical team dispatched by the National Health Commission went to investigate on Jan. 19 that the severity of the situation became public. “Wuhan must immediately change its chief!” Zhang Oufa, a journalist with the government-run Hubei Daily newspaper, thundered in a Weibo post. “Under these abnormal, grave circumstances that keep getting worse by the day, Wuhan’s current leader just doesn’t have what it takes to lead!” His comments were swiftly removed. The paper rushed out an apology, saying it was deeply sorry for “disrupting ongoing work on epidemic prevention” and “causing difficulties for leaders at various levels.” Zhang has continued to post thinly veiled criticisms of city officials, and leading business magazine Caixin has published stories from the front lines, interviewing exhausted doctors and nurses and reporting long waits and supply shortages. The fact that these reports are getting through China's censors is likely a tacit sign of the central leadership’s displeasure. “Wuhan authorities clearly downplayed or made efforts to hide the situation for an extended period of time,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago. “It turned out to be one of the worst decisions that they'll regret all their lives.” Wuhan's mayor, Zhou Xianwang, defended his actions in an unusually tough interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Monday, offering to step down over his decision to close the city — not because of any delays in reporting the epidemic. He said the city government was slow to disclose information about the virus due to national regulations. “As a local government official, I could disclose information only after being authorized,” Zhou said. 'A lot of people didn’t understand this.” Phone calls to the Wuhan party committee publicity department rang unanswered Monday and Tuesday, and their fax machines were turned off. Chinese health officials informed the World Health Organization about the new virus on Dec. 31. By Jan. 8, it had been identified as a new coronavirus, a large family that causes the common cold and more serious illnesses including SARS, which also began in China. By Jan. 12, Chinese scientists had sequenced the virus’ genetic makeup and shared it with WHO, drawing praise for their transparency and swift action. In contrast, the Wuhan heath commission reported no new cases from Jan. 5 to 10 and again from Jan. 12 to 16. China’s Lunar New Year rush —the world’s largest annual human migration — began to get underway, with millions of people passing through Wuhan, a major transit hub. A recently submitted complaint to the National Health Commission alleged that during this period, officials with the Wuhan health commission told doctors they were not allowed to report about the new virus, letting patients wander around freely instead of being isolated. “We have countless medical workers who, because they weren't aware of the situation, got cut down at the front lines,” said the complaint, whose author said they were a Wuhan doctor. “Because of the coverup of the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission and other leaders, they made unnecessary sacrifices!' A volunteer coordinating donations to hospitals in Wuhan heard from doctors and nurses that in early January, it became apparent that many medical workers treating patients were falling ill themselves. They raised the alarm, but with little effect. The sluggish response meant that for weeks, medical staff made do without proper protection, the volunteer said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution against the doctors and nurses. Even now, some medical staff are using garbage bags and cut-up water bottles as makeshift gowns and masks, the volunteer said. “When we first discovered it could be transmitted between people, our hospital head, chairman, medical affairs department, they sat and made endless calls to the city government, the health commission,” one nurse, who fell ill and was put in isolation, wrote in messages shared by the volunteer. “They said we still can’t wear protective clothing, because it might stir up panic.” Not all the blame can be placed on local officials, health and governance experts say. The broader issue is that local officials can be punished for reporting bad news to higher officials. The Chinese government’s rigidity, and a lack of transparency and accountability to the general public means problems like the virus epidemic can fester hidden away until it is too late. “There’s a tendency in terms of the Chinese bureaucratic accountability system to view a governance failure as the fault of a particular government official or group of officials, as opposed to a symptom of a broader governance challenge,” says John Yasuda, an Indiana University professor studying politics and regulatory failures in China. “Officials are likely to be a bit more hesitant to report simply because they don't want to be caught with the hot potato.” As the National Health Commission team came to Wuhan to investigate on Jan. 19, tens of thousands of people tucked into a mass banquet of 13,986 dishes contributed from neighborhood families. Pictures in state media showed nobody wearing masks while they shared rice cakes, fish, and other Lunar New Year delicacies. Even after the head of the team announced that the virus could spread from person to person, and the number of reported cases began soaring, crowds of pedestrians thronged the streets of Wuhan early last week. “I heard about it earlier this month, but I didn’t pay much attention,” said Helen Cao on Jan. 21, pausing after an afternoon shopping on Wuhan’s busiest pedestrian street. “It should be fine. All the sick people are in hospitals, it’s not really an emergency.” Growing anxiety over the virus is evoking memories of the ruling Communist Party’s slow response to the 2002 emergence of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Even after SARS had spread globally, China sought to conceal the number of cases by parking patients in hotels and obscure hospital wings, and driving them around in ambulances to avoid detection by World Health Organization experts. This time, action from the central government has been swifter. There are signs the central government in Beijing may act against city and provincial-level officials it deems responsible for the crisis. China’s cabinet, the State Council, issued a public call Friday for whistleblowers, opening up channels for people to submit complaints about cover-ups or delays in reporting cases. It promised cases would be “dealt with seriously.' Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for the study of global health at the Council of Foreign Relations, believes authorities are being much more responsive, now that the central government has acted. But Huang says the fact that the disease had been allowed to fester for so long shows deep-rooted problems with increasingly strict political controls under President Xi Jinping. “The atmosphere is such now, we see rapid centralization of political power,” Huang said “That created a political atmosphere where people are afraid to speak up… They are very reluctant to share any useful information, and that is actually becoming a challenge.” A 63-year-old retiree who would be identified only his last name, Xia, said he had to stay overnight Thursday to get his feverish wife care, waiting in lines with nearly a hundred people for a doctor’s check and a CT scan and staying in the hospital until 7 in the morning. Xia wondered why there were so few medical staff, and saw a nurse passed out in exhaustion. When he got home, he saw notices online telling sick people to stay home and avoid bothering overworked hospitals. “I feel very helpless,” he said by phone, despite warnings from a superior not to speak to media. “Who’s going to give us advice or suggestions? I have no friends working in hospitals.” Amid Wuhan's now-empty streets and pharmacies running low on supplies, Xia feels more and more anxious. He hopes help will soon be on the way. “Ordinary people really hope the government will take action instead of make empty talk,” he said. “I trust the government.”
  • Countries began evacuating their citizens Wednesday from the Chinese city hardest-hit by an outbreak of a new virus that has killed 132 people and infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad. A Japanese flight carrying evacuees home included four people with coughs and fevers. The three men and one woman were taken to a Tokyo hospital on separate ambulances for treatment and further medical checks. It wasn't immediately known whether they were infected with the new type of coronavirus that appeared in the central city of Wuhan in December. Its symptoms, including cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses. China's latest figures cover the previous 24 hours and add 26 to the number of deaths, 25 of which were in the central province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan. The 5,974 cases on the mainland marked a rise of 1,459 from the previous day, although that rise is a smaller increase than the 1,771 new cases reported on Monday. Dozens of infections have been confirmed abroad as well. The United Arab Emirates, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, confirmed its first case on Wednesday in a person who had come from Wuhan, the state-run news agency reported. Chartered planes carrying evacuees home to Japan and the United States left Wuhan early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from areas China has shut down to try to contain the virus. The lockdown of 17 cities has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed. A plane carrying Americans who had been in Wuhan left for Anchorage, Alaska, where they will be rescreened for the virus. U.S. hospitals are prepared to treat or quarantine people who may be infected. After departing Alaska, the plane is to fly to Ontario, California. At the Tokyo airport, Takeo Aoyama, an employee at Nippon Steel Corp.’s subsidiary in Wuhan, told reporters he was relieved to be able to return home. “We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly and we were still in the city,” Aoyama said, his voice muffled by a white surgical mask. Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed the condition of the four ill passengers after the flight of 206 Japanese evacuees arrived. They were taken in separate ambulances to a Tokyo hospital for treatment and further health checks. All of the passengers had their temperatures checked before boarding and on the plane, and plans had been made for all of the evacuees to be treated and quarantined depending on their test results. Among those remaining in Wuhan was Sara Platto, an Italian animal behavior researcher and veterinarian, and her son, Matteo. “My son turned 12 on January 23, the first day of the lockdown in Wuhan. So he couldn’t invite his friends over. We had a remote birthday celebration, with people ‘visiting’ him over Wechat,” Platto said, referring to China’s Twitter-like messaging app. “We called it the epidemic birthday.” Platto said there were 25 Italians stuck in Wuhan, some students, some very young, who stay in touch online for material and emotional support. She has used her scientific background to offer advice and debunk sensational false news, reminding friends to wash their hands and faces often. As much as panic, people spending most of their times indoors have to deal with boredom. Matteo usually has a very busy agenda between his school, sports, and volunteer work, but now “it’s like suddenly everything has slowed down,” Platto said. As with other international schools, classes are moving online until the all-clear is sounded. “We have most of what we need for now. I think it’s a serious situation, but we are not in zombie land,” she said. Several countries have confirmed cases of the virus, with most of them being Chinese visitors, people who visited Wuhan or family members in close contact to the sick. Japan's six confirmed cases include a tour bus driver who drove visiting groups from Wuhan. Germany says four workers at an auto parts company possibly were infected when a colleague from Shanghai visited. Australia and New Zealand were the latest countries planning evacuations. Both countries also stepped up their travel advice to China, as did Britain. Experts have feared travel during the Lunar New Year holiday would enable the further spread of the virus, and China expanded the holiday to keep people home, closing schools and offices to try to contain it. Hong Kong's leader said the territory will cut all rail links to the mainland and halve the number of flights. Mongolia and North Korea were closing their borders with China, and many places have curtailed flights or are screening travelers arriving from China. Wuhan is building two hospitals in a matter of days to add 2,500 beds for treatment of patients with the virus. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. The source of the virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, the World Health Organization said most cases reported to date “have been milder, with around 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness.” On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss the latest information on the outbreak and reiterate their commitment to bringing it under control. “The National Health Commission presented China’s strong public health capacities and resources to respond and manage respiratory disease outbreaks,” WHO's statement said. It said discussions focused on ways to cooperate to contain the virus in Wuhan and other cities and provinces and studies that could contribute to the development of medical countermeasures such as vaccines and treatments. Other WHO experts will visit China as soon as possible, it said. “Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” Tedros said. ___ Associated Press writer Christina Larson in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.
  • An airplane that a federal official said was evacuating as many as 240 Americans from a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak departed Wednesday has landed in the U.S. The U.S. government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other U.S. citizens. The plane is making a refueling stop in Alaska before flying on to Southern California, the U.S. Embassy in China has said. The white cargo plane with red and gold stripes and no passenger windows arrived at the mostly desolate North Terminal just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, local time. The jetway was extended from the end of the terminal, but it also had no windows. Passengers were not visible. Media were held in a concourse between the airport’s two terminals, about 100 yards (91.4 meters) from the plane. Airport workers were buzzing around the plane after it landed. Alaska health officials said a news conference will be held later. Tuesday night, it was announced that the plane would land at March Air Reserve Base in California's Riverside County instead of at Ontario International Airport in neighboring San Bernardino County. Curt Hagman, an Ontario airport commissioner, said the Centers for Disease Control announced the diversion. “We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight” to the airbase, Hagman said. Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 and the official said Tuesday that the plane left the city before dawn Wednesday, China time. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly. In Anchorage, Alaska, passengers were set to go through customs and Centers for Disease Control screening. “Then they will put them back on the plane and then send them on to their final destination,” said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. He didn’t know how long it would take beyond “hours.” The passengers are being isolated in the airport’s international terminal, which lies mostly dormant in the winter months. Szczesniak stressed the terminal is not connected to the larger and heavily used domestic flights terminal, and each has separate ventilation systems. The lobby in the international terminal was nearly empty Tuesday afternoon, and an airport employee was seen jogging through though the facility that has closed counters for companies like Korean Air, China Airlines and Asiana Airlines. There are two businesses operating at either end of the ticket coutners, a 4x4 rental agency and a satellite office of the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles. Because the terminal is only active in the summer, it allows the airport to practice situations such as this one. “In the winter time, we have the ability and the luxury of not having any passenger traffic over there, so it’s a perfect area for us to handle this kind of flight,” he said. Officials at the Ontario airport 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Los Angeles had been readying facilities to receive and screen the repatriates and temporarily house them for up to two weeks — if the CDC determined that is necessary, said David Wert, spokesman for the county of San Bernardino. Ontario International Airport was designated about a decade ago by the U.S. government to receive repatriated Americans in case of an emergency overseas but it would have been the first time the facility was used for the purpose, Wert said. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and in more severe cases shortness of breath or pneumonia. China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. In addition to the United States, countries including Japan and South Korea have also planned evacuations. ___ Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, contributed to this report.
  • This should be peak season for a 12-room hotel near the train station in the Chinese industrial hub of Wuhan. The Chinese New Year usually brings in plenty of travelers and delivers profits of around $3,000 a month. But the place is empty. Wuhan, the center of a deadly viral outbreak, is on lockdown. “There is not a single customer,’’ said the hotel’s owner, who gave only his surname, Cui. He still has to pay rent and his utility bills. Instead of counting his earnings, he’s expecting to lose $1,500 a month. The outbreak arrives at a bad time for Wuhan, China and the world economy. China, with the world’s No. 2 economy, was decelerating even before the coronavirus hit. And the world economy is coping with an unexpectedly sharp slowdown in No. 7 India, which prompted the International Monetary Fund last week to downgrade its outlook for global growth this year. The coronavirus is drawing comparisons to the SARS outbreak, which paralyzed the economies of China and Hong Kong for weeks in 2003. But what happens in China carries a lot more weight these days: In 2003, China accounted for 4% of global output. Now its share is 16%, according to the World Bank. “A growth slowdown in China could have sizable ripple effects across Asia and the rest of the world, given the size of China’s economy and its role as the key driver of global growth in recent years,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division. No one knows exactly how the outbreak will play out or what its economic impact will be. Authorities are still trying to better understand the new virus. It is from the coronavirus family, which also can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS. So far, China has confirmed more than 4,500 coronavirus cases and more than 100 deaths. The Chinese government has locked down Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province, isolating more than 50 million people. The United States and other countries prepared Tuesday to airlift their citizens out of Wuhan. The outbreak has brought every day business to a standstill and closed down such popular tourist attractions as Beijing's former imperial palace, Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland and the city's Ocean Park. The significant decline in travel has already caused United Airlines to suspend some flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, the airline said in a statement. “It’s still too soon to measure what the impact is going to be from an economic perspective,’’ said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors. The SARS experience offers some reason for economic optimism. That outbreak, centered in southern China, initially clobbered the Chinese economy. In the April-June quarter of 2003, China’s economic growth dropped to an annual rate of 9.1% from 11.1% the previous quarter, noted economists Tommy Wu and Priyanka Kishore of Oxford Economics. But as the health crisis subsided, growth picked back up, recovering to a 10% annual rate in the second half of the year. “From what we know, it’s likely to be similar this time,’’ said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia. “People shouldn’t get panicked that growth is going to slow sharply’’ over a sustained period. Still, the Chinese economy isn’t the dynamo it was in the early and mid-2000s when growth routinely hit double digits. The IMF expects China’s growth to drop from 6.1% in 2019, already the slowest since 1990, to 6% this year and 5.8% next. The slowdown reflects China’s difficult transition from fast but unsustainable growth built around often-wasteful investments to steadier but less striking growth built on consumer spending by the country’s growing middle class. The Chinese economy has also been buffeted by a trade war with the United States. The two countries signed a truce earlier this month that was expected to provide some economic relief. Then the viral outbreak hit. As part of the so-called Phase 1 deal, China agreed to increase purchases of U.S. products by $200 billion over this year and next. That goal sounded ambitious even before the viral outbreak isolated tens of millions of Chinese consumers and delivered a wallop to consumer and business confidence. Rothman suspects the United States might give the Chinese a little leeway. “Both governments really want the deal to work,’’ he said. “Ïf it is clear that (Chinese purchases) are off to a slow start not because the Chinese government is not trying its best but because of the virus, the Trump administration is likely to be sympathetic.’’ There has been no immediate impact on China’s vast manufacturing industries because factories already were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday and weren’t due to reopen until this week or later. “I think the first quarter looks like it will take quite a significant hit,” said Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia economist for IHS Markit. “This still is escalating, so it’s hard to talk about when this will be contained.” Further delays in restarting production could send shock waves through Asian suppliers of components and exporters of iron ore, copper and other commodities as far away as Australia, Brazil and Africa. Foreign suppliers usually see a surge in Chinese orders as factories restock after shutting down for 10 days or more during the holiday. “The loss of economic output could be quite substantial, and that has consequences for the Asian manufacturing supply chain, because orders won’t come in the way people expect,” Biswas said. The impact in other developing Asian countries might reduce their 2020 economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points, according to a forecast by Edward Glossop of Capital Economics. Growth in Asian emerging markets “will slow sharply in the first quarter of the year,” Glossop said in a report. Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Tuesday that Japanese exports, production and corporate profits could be pinched by the new virus, stressing that he was closely monitoring the situation. A more direct hit is already coming from the decline in tourist traffic from China. Nishimura said Chinese travelers usually account for about a third of tourists from abroad. Chinese tourists to Japan tend to be relatively big spenders. The virus has hit right at the time when Chinese travel for the lunar new year. Japan’s economy suffered from the SARS outbreak in 2003, but the damage was limited to several months. The big difference is that Japan has far more Chinese tourists these days. Now “the impact on the Japanese economy would be far greater,” said Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at Nomura Research Institute, while adding that much depends on how widespread the outbreak proves to be. “There is hardly anything good that can be hoped for economically because of the new virus,” he said. Increased sales of masks and other protective gear, he noted, will hardly pick up the slack. ___ Wiseman reported from Washington, McDonald from Beijing and Kageyama from Tokyo. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
  • Thousands of nurses and other employees at a Seattle hospital system began a three-day strike over staffing levels, wages and other issues Tuesday, forcing administrators to close two emergency departments and spend millions to bring in replacement workers from around the country. The picketers took to the sidewalks in front of Swedish Medical Center campuses wearing clear plastic ponchos against a heavy morning rain and carrying purple signs that read “Patients Before Profits” and “United For Our Patients.” Swedish closed two of its seven emergency departments — at its campuses in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood and in Redmond, Washington — beginning at 7 p.m. Monday and said they would remain closed during the strike. Swedish said it would spend millions on replacement workers. A final number wasn't clear, but Swedish Health Services Chief Executive Guy Hudson called $11 million “a start.' “Safe patient care is our number one priority,” Hudson said. “As it has for 110 years, Swedish will continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care to patients and their families, even during the strike.” Susan Walker, a nurse in the day surgery department, joined dozens of others picketing outside the Ballard hospital. She said this was her first strike in 41 years as a nurse, but chronic short-staffing means she has to work on her day off every two or three weeks. “We have to come in on our days off constantly to take care of patients,” Walker said. “It's very disruptive to your life, but you feel sorry for your coworkers so you bite the bullet and come in.” The labor action called by SEIU Local 1199NW, which represents 7,800 workers at Swedish, is one of the largest hospital strikes in the U.S. in recent years, and it comes amid both a national shortage of nurses and a trend of hospital consolidation. A recent study done for the American Hospital Association found that thanks in part to efficiencies of scale, hospital mergers improve care and reduce costs for patients. Some economists have found otherwise and labor activists say it jeopardizes care. Swedish is a nonprofit organization, meaning it doesn't distribute profits to shareholders. But strikers said that since it was taken over by a much larger nonprofit health system — Renton, Washington-based Providence St. Joseph Health — in 2012, administrators have been cutting costs at the expense of patients. Providence, which is also nonprofit, made $970 million in the first nine months of 2019 and has more than $11 billion on hand, according to its most recent financial statement. Hudson said he was disappointed in the strike and that the administration had offered a strong wage and benefits package. That includes proposed raises totaling 11.25% over four years; the union has been seeking 23.25%. Swedish has an 11% vacancy rate, a staffing shortage that the system meets by hiring temporary and traveling staff. The organization said it would like to hire more permanent staff, but hospitals around the country are struggling with nurse shortages. Health care unemployment in the Seattle area is less than 1%. Both the Ballard and Redmond campuses have 18-bed emergency rooms, according to Swedish’s website. The hospital is advising patients who might need emergency or urgent care services in Ballard or Redmond to go to one of its other facilities, including its emergency departments at Seattle’s First Hill and Cherry Hill campuses. The hospital network also has emergency departments at its hospitals in Issaquah, Edmonds and Mill Creek in Everett. Labor and delivery services at the Ballard campus were also closed. Kale Rose, a labor and delivery nurse and a member of the union's negotiating team, said she herself had given birth there, which made her concerns about staffing all the more poignant. In an emergency, she said, there needs to be enough “eyes and hands' present to accomplish required tasks, such as hanging IV bags, administering medication, weighing blood-soaked sponges to determine blood loss and transferring a patient if necessary. “I know all of the scary things that can happen when you have a baby,” Rose said. “And I know what it's like to be on staff and feel like you don't have enough people to take care of patients.”
  • U.S. health officials offered a reality check Tuesday about the scary new virus from China: They're expanding screenings of international travelers and taking other precautions but for now, they insist the risk to Americans is very low. “At this point Americans should not worry for their own safety,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday. China has confirmed more than 4,500 people with the respiratory illness, which in severe cases can cause pneumonia, with dozens more counted in other countries. In the U.S. so far, there are five confirmed patients, all of whom had traveled to the hardest-hit part of China — and no sign that they have spread the illness to anyone around them. Still, “this is a very fast-moving, constantly changing situation,” Azar added. Flanked by the government's top infection specialists, Azar listed the biggest unanswered questions of the outbreak and tried to tamp down some of the fear and speculation provoked by China's rising toll: —How deadly is this new virus? China's death toll has passed 100 but the first patients counted in an outbreak “are naturally the most severe cases” and “skew our understanding,” Azar cautioned. Over time, if doctors find many more people had just a mild, cold-like illness, the death rate will change. —How easily does it spread? One way to measure that is an estimate of how many people could catch an infection from one contagious patient. Some reports have suggested that number might be between 1.5 and 3.5 for the new coronavirus, but Azar stressed it's too soon to know. For comparison, one patient with measles could spread it to 12 to 18 others, he added. —What about silent carriers? Reports from China suggest some people may have spread the virus before showing symptoms. And Germany on Tuesday said a man with the virus near Munich never traveled to China or had close contact with anyone showing symptoms. Instead, he may have been infected by a coworker from China who briefly visited for a company training session and didn't report feeling ill until her flight home. Later authorities confirmed three additional cases from the German company, all connected to the first. Some viruses, such as the flu, can spread before symptoms are obvious. But there's no evidence it's happened with the new virus in the U.S., where health officials are checking contacts of the sick. And epidemics are driven by the openly sick, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief of the National Institutes of Health. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to send its own scientists to visit China for a first-hand look try to answer those questions. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it hopes to send in international experts soon. Without a vaccine or treatments, the world is depending on tried-and-true public health steps to tamp down the outbreak — finding the infected early and isolating them to stem the spread. In the U.S., the CDC is beefing up its checks of incoming travelers. It already had been screening for illness among passengers arriving from the epicenter of China's outbreak at five U.S. airports. But people who've visited other parts of China still may be arriving, with stops in other places first. Now, CDC is sending extra staff to other “quarantine stations” to screen arrivals at a total of 18 airports around the country and at two border crossings, in El Paso, Texas, and San Diego. The State Department has also chartered a plane to evacuate diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak started, and some other Americans. Asked if those evacuees would be quarantined, Azar said there will be doctors on the flight to check all the passengers so health officials can decide if additional steps are needed. With an incubation period of anywhere from two to 14 days, travelers may arrive showing no symptoms. But CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier said the screenings are an opportunity to educate travelers that if they start feeling sick — with a fever, cough or flu-like symptoms — after returning from an outbreak zone, they should contact their doctor. That's exactly what the first U.S. patients did. Azar said he has directed $105 million to fight the outbreak. Among the next steps, the CDC developed a test for the virus and aims to make it usable by state health departments, to speed diagnosis of suspected cases. Research also is under way to develop a vaccine or treatment. Airport screenings were initially done in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. That has been expanded to Anchorage, Alaska; Boston; Dallas; Detroit; El Paso, Texas; Honolulu; Houston, Miami, Minneapolis; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; San Diego; Seattle; Washington, D.C. (Dulles); and San Juan, Puerto Rico. ___ AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe in New York contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China that has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 100 (all times local): 5:45 a.m. A U.S. State Department official has told The Associated Press that a chartered plane sent to China to pick up Americans in the city of Wuhan has departed and is en route to the U.S. Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly. The plane left Wuhan before dawn Wednesday, China time. It’s first stop will be Anchorage, where the travelers will be re-screened for the virus. Hospitals have been notified and are prepared to treat or quarantine people who may be infected. Then the plane is scheduled to fly to Ontario, California. ___ By Matthew Lee ___ This version corrects that the plane left before dawn Wednesday China time, not Tuesday. ___ 3:45 a.m. The British government is warning against “all but essential travel” to mainland China amid the outbreak of a new virus. The Foreign Office updated its travel advice on its website, saying it applies to all of the mainland except for Hong Kong and Macao. The guidance says: “It may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so. If you feel that you may want to leave China soon, you should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed.” China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has killed more than 100 people. ___ 3 a.m. Japanese media say a Japanese plane has arrived in the Chinese city that is the epicenter of a new virus and will bring back 200 citizens. The Yomiuri newspaper said in an online article that the plane arrived late Tuesday night in Wuhan and would return to Tokyo early Wednesday morning. A U.S.-chartered plane with Americans from the Wuhan Consulate and other U.S. citizens was also expected to depart for Alaska early Wednesday but there was no immediate confirmation if it had left. The plane with the Americans was scheduled to first land for refueling in Anchorage, where the travelers will be re-screened for the virus. Hospitals have been notified and are prepared to treat or quarantine people who may be infected. Then the plane is scheduled to fly to Ontario, California. ___ 2:30 a.m. Canada is confirming a third case of the new virus from China that has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 100, British Columbia Health Officer Bonnie Henry said Tuesday the man in his 40s visited Wuhan, China recently and arrived in Vancouver last week. Wuhan is where the outbreak started. Henry says the man showed no symptoms while flying to Canada but developed symptoms a day later and contacted health authorities in Canada on Sunday. The man regularly travels to China for work. The first two confirmed cases in Canada are in Toronto and involve a a couple that recently visted Wuhan. ___ 1:50 a.m. France has confirmed a fourth case of a new virus spreading in China, an elderly Chinese tourist who is in intensive care in a Paris hospital. Jerome Saloman directs France's public health agency and says Tuesday that the tourist is suffering from a severe case of the virus and needs constant care. Saloman says the patient is in his 80s and is from China’s Hubei region, where the virus has been spreading rapidly, French authorities are looking for people the tourist was in contact with since arriving in France. Saloman says authorities are also stepping up surveillance of people who have arrived recently from the region around the Chinese city of Wuhan. Three other people were already hospitalized in France with the virus, the first cases reported in Europe. The virus has sicked thousands mostly in China and more than 100 people have died. France is also planning to repatriate hundreds of its citizens from the Wuhan region. ___ 1:20 a.m. The European Union is dispatching two flights to evacuate at least 350 healthy European citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan as a deadly new flu spreads in the region. The 28-nation union activated a disaster-response mechanism to organize the flights at the request of France, which has a large number of citizens in the Wuhan region. The initial flights will only carry healthy EU citizens or those without symptoms of the virus, the European Commission said in a statement Tuesday. It said the EU is ready to mobilize further flights in the coming days. The first flight will carry about 250 French citizens. More than 100 other EU citizens will travel on the second flight. The EU will co-finance the flights. France’s government had already announced that it would organize return flights for both healthy citizens and those with virus symptoms, and that it would hold them in quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in France. ___ 12 a.m. The United States and several other nations are preparing to airlift citizens out of a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak that has killed more than 100 people. Hong Kong's leader says it will cut all rail links to mainland China and halve the number of flights, as authorities in China and overseas sought to stem the spread of the new virus. The number of confirmed cases has risen to more than 4,500. The U.S. government chartered a plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the outbreak started, and other Americans. China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has announced a plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious diseases as a new viral illness spreads in China. The Massachusetts senator on Tuesday unveiled a plan that includes fully funding the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pandemic prevention and response programs. The agency has faced stiff budget cuts under President Donald Trump, including to emergency funds and global health programs that were established following West Africa's Ebola epidemic in 2014. “Like so much else, Trump’s approach to keeping us safe from disease outbreaks is a mess,” Warren wrote in an online post announcing the plan. “But when he’s gone, we can fix it.” Warren's proposal comes as the coronavirus has killed more than 100 people in China and the city at the center of the crisis, Wuhan, remains on lockdown. The U.S. has confirmed cases in Washington state, Illinois, Southern California and Arizona. The timing of Warren's announcement was no accident — nor is the fact that she's the candidate drawing up the proposal. During more than a year of campaigning, Warren has embraced the reputation of having “a plan” for nearly everything. She remains bunched near the top of the polls with former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigeig, with the Iowa caucuses, which lead off primary voting, looming on Feb. 3. Warren blamed the Trump administration for proposing “billions in cuts to the agencies responsible for fighting and preventing pandemics, a devastating blow that would put lives at risk.' Not all of those reductions have been approved by Congress, though. She also promised to push the CDC to develop vaccines against infectious diseases, including a universal immunization against the flu. But it is the National Institutes of Health that has already made a priority of developing a better flu vaccine. Warren said she can mitigate the spread of disease by fighting climate change and moving the U.S. to a universal, government-funded health system under the “Medicare for All” program. She also wants to increase NIH funding by $100 billion. Although such a high price tag may make it difficult to survive the appropriations process, Warren plans to help with the funding by creating a “swear jar.' That would be a pot of money requiring private companies to pay some of their profits from publicly funded research back to the NIH. Warren further promises to work with Congress to replenish funding for the Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Emergency Fund to better respond to outbreaks and to create a Global Health Security Corps that will “ensure that we can get the right expertise to the center of an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.” “Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment's notice,” Warren wrote. “When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.” ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

News

  • Florida's St. Augustine Police Department said they are searching for the suspect who robbed a group of children at gunpoint at a popular park. The robbery happened at Project Swing park on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. Several signs at the park read, “For your safety, park is closed from dusk to dawn.” According to the report, the victims, whose ages are redacted, were sitting at the tables in the middle of the park when a man approached them and demanded money. In the report, one of the victims said the suspect pointed the gun into his chest when he told him he didn’t have any money. Police said the man took $16 from one of the victims before he tried to grab a backpack from the other. The victims told investigators when the suspect tried to take the backpack, they ran towards the parking garage for help. Detectives said the suspect took off running in the opposite direction toward Ketterlinus gym. By the time police responded, the suspect was gone. Investigators said they found a bag believed to belong to the suspect near the tennis courts next to the park. It was sent to the lab for DNA testing. Anyone with information on the suspect is encouraged to call the police department.
  • A 77-year-old man was punched in the face as he walked into a grocery store in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and now police are looking for the person responsible. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. The victim, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Jan. 23 around 4:30 p.m. he pulled up, saw someone parked there, and on his way inside the store, he said, “You're not supposed to park here.” Police said surveillance video shows a woman, who was in the parked car in the fire lane outside, go in the store, walk up to the victim and say something. Officials said a man who was with her then assaulted the 77-year-old man. “And the next thing I know, this jerk comes around and just cold-cocks me right flat on the floor,” the victim said. Witnesses told police they couldn’t believe it happened. The suspect took off and police are still looking for him now. There’s video of the assault that Kroger cameras recorded, but investigators said they’re not releasing it yet because the case is still open. “I had no idea he was even in the place until he came round in front and punched me,” the victim said. The incident is a reminder to shoppers that you may want to tell police when someone is doing something illegal instead of saying something to that person. You never know what they are going to do.
  • A bill sponsored by Utah Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, would restrict people from purchasing a hunting license if they aren’t up to date on child support payments. The “Fishing and Hunting Restrictions for Nonpayment of Child Support” House bill would prohibit “the issuance of a license, permit, or tag related to fishing or hunting if an individual is delinquent in child support.” According to KUTV, the bill would affect anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support. Once a person is no longer behind on their child support payments, they can obtain a hunting license. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in the summer of 2021.
  •  For the first time, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal opened up about the death of his former teammate and friend, Kobe Bryant. Bryant, his daughter 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California. O’Neal’s comments came at the start of TNT’s pregame show, as he sat on the court at Staples Center along with the rest of the network’s studio team. TNT was supposed to televise a doubleheader, but the NBA canceled the Lakers-Clippers game that was scheduled to be the nightcap because the Lakers organization is still too devastated after the death of Bryant and his daughter. I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said. Shaq said he was working out with his son and nephew, when another nephew walked into the room crying and showed him the phone. “I snapped at him,” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘Get that out of my face.'” O’Neal said he thought it was a hoax at first, and then he started getting phone calls from friends and other fellow basketball players. “Forty-seven years old, I’ve lost two grandmothers … lost my sister. And now I’ve lost my little brother,' O’Neal said. O'Neal and Bryant teamed to help the Lakers win three straight championships from 2000-02, but they occasionally feuded and O'Neal was traded to Miami in 2004. He would win another title there, while Bryant would win two more with the Lakers. O’Neal said his heart broke even more when he learned who else was on the chopper. “It’s sort of like a triple stabbing to the heart because after you cry and wonder about that, then I get back on the internet – Rick Fox is on the (helicopter). So now, I’m sick even more,” O’Neal said. “And then the final blow, his lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter.” They eventually patched up their relationship and O'Neal said they texted frequently, though he said he hadn't actually seen Bryant since the final day of his career in 2016. O'Neal said he told Bryant to score 50 points and Bryant instead scored 60. O’Neal said Bryant even checked in with his son Shareef, who underwent heart surgery in December 2018. “Shareef called me, devastated, and said Kobe just texted me to check and see how he was doing. And he used to do that from time to time,” O’Neal said. O’Neal said this year’s NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be a solemn event. “The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, Ha. I got five. You got four.’ The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we had stayed together to get 10,’ those are the things we can’t get back,” O’Neal said. O'Neal's comments were his first that were televised since Bryant's death. He had previously only posted on social media and spoken on a podcast. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Last week, the head of a Chinese government expert team said that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people avoid travel to China. Here are some tips for travelers who may be making their way to or from China or other destinations:  Check the CDC website for updates on the outbreak The CDC has a dedicated page that is kept up to date with travel information to China, impacted transportation in China and status of medical care in the country. Maintain good personal hygiene According to The New York Times, passengers should avoid touching their faces and practice proper coughing etiquette, such as coughing or sneezing into an arm instead of your hands or the environment. The CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used when soap is not available. The Times also reminded travelers that seatbacks and tray tables are wiped down by ground crews, but cleaning them again with a disinfecting wipe is recommended. Lastly, try to keep a safe distance from anyone who appears to be ill. If you are seated next to someone who may be ill, you can ask a flight attendant to reseat you. Please note that they may not be able to accommodate the request. Do I need a mask while traveling? Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University’s division of infectious diseases, told CNN that the benefit of masks may be impractical. “The scientific basis showing that people in the community wearing masks actually has any benefit is very thin and questionable,” Shaffner told CNN. Schaffner also told CNN that U.S. travelers who are traveling only within the United States should not be as concerned about the virus. Other noteworthy tips Henry Harteveldt, of Atmosphere Research, told USA Today that travelers should consider keeping air vents open above the seat to improve ventilation but also noted that he aims them away from his body. USA Today also suggested bringing tissues with you to use to avoid touching door handles when you use the bathrooms on flights. Book a window seat. A study published in 2018 concluded that the window seat is more likely to keep a passenger away from people who might be sick because it is furthest from the aisle where more people move through the cabin. What are other countries doing in response to the outbreak? Many countries are checking the temperatures of arriving airline passengers and adopting precautionary quarantine procedures in response to a new virus. India, Nigeria, Japan and the United States are some of the countries where airport screening procedures were in place. Below are some of the public health measures in multiple countries intended to prevent a repeat of the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which started in China and killed nearly 800 people (Source:The Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2020) MAINLAND CHINA China’s often-secretive Communist government was blamed for making SARS far worse by initially hiding information and blocking the work of the World Health Organization. This time, leader Xi Jinping has called for tough measures and said “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.” At the airport in Wuhan, the temperatures of departing passengers were checked and outbound tour groups were banned from leaving the city. Virtually everyone in a public role, from traffic police officers to bank tellers, is wearing a protective face mask. JAPAN Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged officials to step up quarantine checks at airports and other entry points, and Japan will require visitors arriving from Wuhan to fill in health forms. HONG KONG The semiautonomous city is one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese. It has stepped up surveillance and ordered more cleaning and disinfecting for planes and trains from Wuhan, as well as for train stations and the airport. Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said authorities are ready for a worst-case scenario and are on extremely high alert. A lack of information and low levels of vigilance were blamed for Hong Kong becoming the second-hardest hit area by SARS after mainland China in the early 2000s. As in much of mainland China, Hong Kong residents favor traditional markets where live poultry and other animals are sold. The government advises people against visiting such markets or touching animals or their droppings. SOUTH KOREA South Korea reported its first case of the virus in mid-January, in a Chinese woman who works at a South Korean company. At Incheon International Airport near Seoul, the only airport in South Korea with direct flights from Wuhan, two special gates are designated for passengers from the city and ear thermometers are used to check their temperatures. Arrival halls are being sprayed with disinfectant twice a week, up from once a week previously, and escalator handrails, elevator buttons and other sensitive surfaces are wiped with disinfectant twice a day. NIGERIA Nigeria’s government says health authorities at points of entry are on alert for cases of coronavirus arriving in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control asked that travelers from Wuhan report to a medical facility and the center if they feel ill. China is Africa’s top trading partner. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said anyone with a severe respiratory illness should be tested if they have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks or had close physical contact with a coronavirus patient or treatment at a facility where a confirmed case has been reported. There were more than 200,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of the end of 2017, not including numerous informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. INDIA India will expand thermal screening of passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, to seven airports from the current three. In-flight announcements before arrival will direct passengers with a fever or cough who have traveled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days to declare themselves to health authorities. Thermal screening will begin in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin, and continue in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA Singapore will expand temperature screening at Changi Airport, one of Asia’s busiest travel hubs, for all travelers on flights arriving from China beginning on Wednesday. The health ministry said individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days of the onset of symptoms will be isolated in a hospital as a precautionary measure and investigated. Neighboring Malaysia has also beefed up screening at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Deputy health Minister Lee Boon Chye said staff are being trained to handle possible cases. “If a case emerges, then we may have to take more drastic measures, but for now, we hope we can nip it at the entry point,” Lee told reporters. BANGLADESH Bangladesh civil aviation authorities have ordered airport managers to start screening incoming passengers from China. A.H.M. Touhid-ul Ahsan, director of the main Shahjalal International Airport, said doctors at the airport would look for fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties and sore throats. The country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research will be notified of any passengers with symptoms for further examination, he said. AUSTRALIA Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said biosecurity staff and state health officials in New South Wales are meeting flights from Wuhan and are distributing pamphlets printed in English and Chinese to all passengers. The pamphlets describe symptoms of infection and ask people to identify themselves if they are experiencing any. RUSSIA Russia’s Healthcare Ministry described the virus as a biological hazard, with Deputy Minister Sergei Krayevoy saying the virus was a “striking example” of the biological threats Russia faces. The Russian public health service, Rospotrebnadzor, said it had developed a testing kit that would allow labs to detect the new coronavirus quickly. Russia is one of the three most popular tourist destinations for people from China, according to Russian officials. They estimate that about 2 million tourists from China visited Russia in 2018. ITALY The Italian Health Ministry says passengers making direct and indirect flights from Wuhan, China, to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport will be checked for potential signs of the virus. People with suspected infections will be quarantined at an infectious disease hospital in Rome, the ministry says. No cases have been reported so far. Posters at the airport advise travelers to consider delaying trips to the Wuhan area and if they do go there, to avoid touching animals or uncooked animal products. The Associated Press contributed to this story. Associated Press journalists Moussa Moussa in Canberra, Australia, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, Cara Anna in Johannesburg, South Africa, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report. xxx
  • It is a sad time. I need to have a pity party and go get some of my friends...let's go cry a minute.' That's Carol, one of the many dedicated and loyal customers of Life Grocery, the natural and organic foods and products store in Marietta. Carol's been a customer for 20-plus years. There's also Richard, who's been a customer even longer - since the 1980's. 'This was the original and only health food store where you could get organic groceries. It's very sad.'  On a Monday in the last week of January, the store along Roswell Rd. between the Big Chicken and the 120 Loop was busy. Busier than normal. A good bet that had lots to do with deep discounts at Life Grocery, as the store was closing its doors by the end of January.   'People are coming in, wanting to say goodbye. It's the end of an era,' store general manager Ronnie Hudson tells WSB Radio. It's been emotional for her too. She's been with the co-op business since the mid 90's and admits there will be a void as the doors close for good.  Life Grocery was founded by Life University students when Gerald Ford was president - back in 1976. Hudson says the business was one of the pioneers in the natural, organic food market, 'there weren't options back then...we were the template.' Stores like Life and some other early ones set the stage for what came years later - an explosion in the organic/natural food space, now dominated by major players like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and others. Life Grocery's reasons for closing are many says Hudson. 'The main distributor that we use, Whole Foods is their priority. So sometimes we can't even get our whole orders full.' Not only competition though. Aging equipment has also been an issue, rising costs, and location has played a part Hudson says. Life Grocery sits in an aging strip mall. Whole Foods used to be across the street. But when it left for a better location, Hudson says some of her customers told her, they'd forgotten about Life.  Still, in the store's final hours of existence Monday, longtime customers were stopping in for their last purchases. Hudson was exchanging hugs with many of them. 'The emotions at this point, even from our customers, has been so touching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. It feels good to know that people have appreciated what we have.'