Southeast Asia on full alert in bid to stop spread of deadly Chinese coronavirus

Medical workers enter an isolation area to visit the first two cases of the new coronavirus infection, in Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on January 23, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2020

Southeast Asia on full alert in bid to stop spread of deadly Chinese coronavirus

  • Indonesia installs thermal scanners at ports of entry as first case confirmed in Singapore
  • Lockdown measures being put in place throughout China’s Hubei province and its regional capital Wuhan, where coronavirus first emerged

JAKARTA: Hospitals and passenger transport hubs throughout southeast Asia have been put on full alert in a bid to prevent the spread of a killer new Chinese virus.

With lockdown measures being put in place throughout China’s Hubei province and its regional capital Wuhan, where coronavirus first emerged, and first infections already starting to be reported in Asia, authorities in countries including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are preparing to deal with an outbreak.

Globally, there are more than 500 confirmed cases of the virus, which has so far killed 17 people in China, and it has begun spreading abroad.

There was a false alarm on Thursday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, when an employee in a building housing Chinese tech giant Huawei was reported ill with symptoms similar to the virus. Indonesia’s Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto later told journalists that the worker had been “diagnosed as having a sore throat.”

However, he said the government was taking no chances and had installed thermal scanners at international airports and seaports to check visitors arriving from China and other countries where cases had been confirmed.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that a case of imported coronavirus had been identified in the city state.

“The case is a 66-year-old male Chinese national from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Jan. 20,” a ministry statement said, adding that the patient was being treated in an isolation room at the Singapore general hospital and was in a stable condition.

Health officials also revealed that they had received notification of a female Chinese national, also from Wuhan, who had preliminarily tested positive for the virus. “Both cases were immediately isolated upon presenting to the respective hospitals with clinical symptoms,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that it had designated 26 hospitals to screen potential cases and handle any outbreak.

Noor Hisham Abdullah, the Malaysian ministry’s director general of health, said the national Crisis Preparedness and Response Center (CPRC) had received reports of four cases. Three of them had already tested negative and the other person, admitted to a hospital in Sabah state on Wednesday, was in a stable condition, added Abdullah.

An Indonesian Ministry of Health spokeswoman told Arab News that there were around 30 inbound flights from China to Indonesia each day, carrying between 4,500 and 6,000 passengers.

“The health ministry is in cooperation with related agencies to prepare a simulation, including installing 195 thermal scanners in all 135 ports of entry, by air, sea, and land. We are on standby around the clock,” she said.


NATO chief visits Afghanistan as US, Taliban to sign deal

Updated 34 min 14 sec ago

NATO chief visits Afghanistan as US, Taliban to sign deal

  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper will join the NATO chief at a press conference
  • The details of the deal, to be signed in Doha on Saturday, have not been disclosed

BURSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was in Afghanistan on Saturday for meetings with officials as the United States and the Taliban were to sign a long-sought deal, the alliance said.
Stoltenberg was to participate in a Kabul media conference later Saturday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the NATO statement said.
He was also to meet the head of the US and NATO forces in the country, General Scott Miller, as well as other commanders of the alliance’s training mission there.
The details of the deal, to be signed in Doha on Saturday, have not been disclosed, but it is expected to set the terms of the US to start withdrawing the more than 12,000 troops it has in Afghanistan in return for commitments from the Taliban.
It carries with it hopes of a fall in violence in Afghanistan after decades of conflict and the opening of peace talks with the Afghan government, which was excluded from the direct US-Taliban negotiations.

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