Singapore bans China arrivals as virus death toll hits 213

BEIJING (AFP) – Singapore and Mongolia slapped sweeping bans on arrivals from China yesterday and the United States (US) told its citizens to avoid the country after a global health emergency was declared over a viral epidemic that has killed 213 people.

Nearly 10,000 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus and new cases were found abroad, with more than 20 countries now affected by the disease.

With countries around the world growing increasingly concerned, the World Health Organization (WHO), which was criticised for initially downplaying the virus threat, declared the outbreak a global health emergency early yesterday.

The US State Department raised its warning alert to the highest level, telling Americans “do not travel” to China and urged those already there to leave. Singapore and Mongolia went a step further. Citing a likely “sharper rise” in the spread of the virus, Singapore’s government barred arrivals and transit passengers from mainland China.

Mongolia’s measure applies a ban to Chinese nationals and foreigners coming from the neighbouring country by plane, train or road from today until March 2. Mongolians will be barred from going to China over the same period.

The vast, landlocked country had previously only banned cars from crossing the border.

Japan, meanwhile, joined Britain, Germany and other countries that have recommended that their citizens avoid China.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the greatest concern was the potential for the virus “to spread to countries with weaker health systems”.

“We must all act together now to limit further spread,” Tedros said.