Italy, Turkey screen all arriving passengers for coronavirus

ROME (AP) — Italy and Turkey said Wednesday they were taking the temperatures of all arriving airline passengers in new prevention measures aimed at halting the spread of a virus outbreak that has killed hundreds of people in China.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said thermal cameras installed at Turkish airports would begin screening all arriving passengers Thursday. Previously, Turkey was screening travelers from China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Malaysia.

Italy on Jan. 30 barred all commercial flights to and from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the same day two Chinese tourists from hard-hit Wuhan tested positive for the new type of coronavirus in Rome.

But to boost precautions involving passengers from other countries, the Italian health ministry and civil protection agency announced they would use thermo-scanners “on all arriving passengers.”

“It is clear that this is a temporary measure,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told The Associated Press.

He indicated that Italy’s flight ban might ease once the scanners are all in place.

The two Chinese tourists in Italy afflicted with the virus took a turn for the worse Tuesday and were moved into intensive care at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani infectious disease hospital, suffering also from viral pneumonia.

The two were given respiratory help and are undergoing experimental anti-viral treatment, the hospital said, adding that their condition on Wednesday was serious but stable.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia evacuated 144 people from the epicenter of the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. All evacuees will be quarantined for two weeks in a sanatorium in western Siberia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also hailed the Chinese government for taking “decisive, vigorous measures” to contain the outbreak Wednesday at a meeting with new foreign ambassadors in Moscow.

“China and all of us are facing the danger of the coronavirus spreading. Chinese government takes decisive, vigorous measures in order to stop it. We are ready to provide help and necessary support to the friendly Chinese nation,” Putin said.

On the business front, the European aerospace giant Airbus has closed its plant in northern China that assembles A320 passenger jets, another business casualty of the disruptions caused by China’s battle against the virus.

An Airbus statement gave no indication Wednesday about when the assembly facility in Tianjin might reopen. It said the company’s China operation was observing government requirements that employees should work from home where possible. Airbus also said restrictions imposed on travel in China and internationally to slow the spread of the virus “are posing some logistical challenges.”

As of Wednesday, China has had 490 deaths and 24,324 confirmed cases of the virus on the mainland. Hong Kong and the Philippines have also had one death each. Europe has 28 confirmed virus cases, with Germany having the most on the continent with 12 cases, all linked to one auto parts company.


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