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As China Virus Toll Hits 25, Travel Limits Intensify; Senate Briefing Friday

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Workers are busy making high-quality masks at Kurebaa Company Office in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture in Japan on Thursday. (Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Thursday, 23 January 2020 08:13 PM

China reported that deaths from a new coronavirus have risen to 25 as it rushes to halt the SARS-like disease, even as the World Health Organization stopped short of calling the infection a global health emergency.

Restrictions on travel and public gatherings have been implemented in Wuhan, the city in central China where the virus was first detected, as well as in several nearby municipalities. Hong Kong and Beijing are canceling planned holiday activities, according to local officials and state media.

Pressure to contain the virus is growing, with more than 650 cases confirmed. Indeed, as of 7:30 p.m., Reuters and The Associated Press were reporting that the toll had risen well beyond that, to 830 cases confirmed by the Chinese National Health Commission.

Adding to the urgency to curtail the spread is the start of Lunar New Year on Friday, when millions of Chinese travel across the country and abroad.

With the illness now having reached several other countries, including a case detected in Seattle and another potential one in Texas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now pressing the Food and Drug Administration to allow states to use its diagnostic test for the coronavirus, a CDC spokesman said Thursday, according to Reuters.

That news agency also said senators have been invited to a closed door briefing Friday on the coronavirus with senior U.S. government officials. The briefing will include leadership from the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the Department of State. 

Concerns about the virus extend beyond health to its impact on the economy, with warnings that China’s fragile stabilization could be at risk. Mounting fears about the outbreak have roiled financial markets, and the Shanghai Composite Index had the worst end to a Lunar Year in its three-decade history.

Public heath experts gathered by the United Nations agency to review the situation were split over whether they should recommend declaring a public health crisis of international concern and instead opted to continue monitoring the outbreak. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said he would reconvene the committee within 10 days, or at a moment’s notice should the situation take a turn for the worse.

“Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva Thursday. “It may yet become one.”

The number of new cases has continued to grow within China, and patients with the infection have been found countries across Asia, with Singapore and Vietnam reporting cases while Japan reported a second patient. While most cases have remained mild, about one-fourth of those infected have developed severe disease, officials said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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China reported that deaths from a new coronavirus have risen to 25 as it rushes to halt the SARS-like disease, even as the World Health Organization stopped short of calling the infection a global health emergency. Restrictions on travel and public gatherings have been...
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2020-13-23
Thursday, 23 January 2020 08:13 PM
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