The Latest: UAE suspends flights to China outside Beijing

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

The United Arab Emirates, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways, is suspending flights to mainland China outside of Beijing.

The country’s state-run WAM news agency made the announcement Monday.

It said the flight suspension would begin Wednesday.

Those flying from Beijing will be subject “to a six-to-eight hour comprehensive medical screening at the airport to ensure the safety of passengers before boarding.”

The UAE has five confirmed cases of the new virus, all from Chinese tourists to the Arabian Peninsula nation.

The UAE has held off on the flight ban as it hopes Chinese tourism and investment will boost its sagging economy.


10 p.m.

A person who was a passenger on a Japanese-operated cruise ship has tested positive for a new virus after leaving the ship in Hong Kong on Jan. 25.

The ship returned to Yokohama carrying 3,000 passengers and crew members after making port calls in Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa. A team of quarantine officials and medical staff boarded the ship on Monday night and began medical checks of everyone on board, a health ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

He said some people on the ship have developed coughs, fevers and other symptoms, though they were not yet linked to the virus. The passengers and crew members may be quarantined on the ship if the captain agrees to do so, the official said.


7 p.m.

Chinese scientists say they have more evidence that the new virus that recently emerged in China likely originated in bats. In two papers published Monday in the journal Nature, scientists report that genome sequences from several patients in Wuhan show the virus is closely related to the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

In one study, Shi Zhen-Li and colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported that genome sequences from seven patients were 96% identical to a bat coronavirus. SARS is also believed to originate in bats, although it jumped to civet cats before infecting people in the 2002-2003 international outbreak. Although scientists suspect the latest virus outbreak in China began at a seafood market in Wuhan where wild animals were on sale and in contact with people, the animal source has not yet been pinpointed.

“In essence, it’s a version of SARS that spreads more easily but causes less damage,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading who was not connected to the two studies. “The virus also uses the same receptor, the door used to get into human cells, which explains transmission and why it causes pneumonia,” he said in a statement.


6:45 p.m.

A cruise ship industry group says its members will ban anyone, including guests or crew, who has traveled from or through mainland China in the previous 14 days, the maximum incubation period for a new virus that originated in China.

The Cruise Lines International Association, which says it represents more than 50 cruise lines and is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, said its members have suspended all crew movements from mainland China.

Last week, a scare over a woman with flu-like symptoms led Italian authorities to keep 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members on a cruise ship docked north of Rome. The Costa Crociere cruise line said the woman and her partner, who had no symptoms, were put into isolation Wednesday. The passengers were allowed to disembark on Thursday after tests for the new virus came back negative.

The number of people infected by the virus globally has topped 17,000. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China.


6:15 p.m.

The head of the World Health Organization says it’s working with Google to ensure that searches about the new virus from China turn up information from the United Nations health agency first, part of efforts to fight “rumors and misinformation” about the outbreak.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the opening of WHO’s executive board meeting on Monday that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok “have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation” about the virus and outbreak that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and has now spread to 23 other countries.

The number of people infected by the virus globally has topped 17,000. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China.


5:55 p.m.

Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says the country may start deporting foreigners infected with the new coronavirus.

Mishustin said at a Cabinet meeting Monday that it is one of the measures outlined in a government-approved plan of action for preventing the virus from spreading in Russia.

On Friday, Russia reported its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus — two Chinese nationals were hospitalized in two different regions of Siberia. It wasn’t immediately clear from Mishustin’s statement whether they would be deported.

Like other countries, Russia has halted most of its air and train traffic with China, shut down its land border with China and Mongolia and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens.

On Monday, authorities announced Russia was suspending the last operating train that connects Moscow and Beijing and all trains between Russia and North Korea.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova also said that several Russian planes would fly to China on Monday to evacuate Russian citizens. Golikova said there are currently around 130 Russian nationals in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.


5:35 p.m.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced the city will shut almost all land and sea border control points to the mainland from midnight to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus from China.

Lam said in a briefing Monday that only two border checkpoints — at Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai — will remain open.

Lam denied that the move was due to pressure from medical workers who threatened a five-day strike to demand the government shut all borders to the mainland. Public broadcaster RTHK reports that some went on strike Monday and more threatened to walk out on Tuesday if their demands were not met.

Lam said the border closures had “absolutely nothing to do with the strike” and was instead simply a measure to stem the spread of the virus which has infected 15 people in Hong Kong. Lam urged Hong Kong residents to “stand united” in combating the outbreak.


5:30 p.m.

The Czech Republic has plans to suspend all flights to and from China in an effort to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the ban will take effect on Sunday. The lag gives 100 Czechs in China a chance to return home.

About 620,000 Chinese tourists visited the Czech Republic last year. The first direct flight connection between Prague and China was established in 2015. Three Chinese airlines operate flights to Prague from Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Sian (Xi’an).


5:15 p.m.

Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates says it will continue flying to mainland China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but will fly smaller aircraft on many routes.

The airline said Monday it would swap out its double-decker Airbus A380 for a Boeing 777 on several routes to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

The decision comes after Western and Arab airlines stopped flying to China over the outbreak. The UAE has pushed for more Chinese tourists and investment amid an economic slowdown.

The United Arab Emirates also instituted a new rule Monday that any school staff or student returning to the country from China needed to spend 14 days at home before returning to class.


4:45 p.m.

The Shanghai Composite index has lost nearly 8% as Chinese regulators moved to stabilize markets jolted by a virus that has spread to more than 20 countries, slamming regional tourism and threatening global growth.

The outbreak of the virus in China has prompted governments around the world to step up surveillance and quarantine requirements as airlines cancel hundreds of flights. Millions of Chinese remained in lock-down as the number of people infected by the virus topped 17,000 as of Sunday night. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China.

The Shanghai benchmark dropped almost 9% after markets opened on Monday after a week-long Lunar New Year holiday that was extended by three days. It was its worst day since August 2015, despite the central bank’s effort to put billions of dollars of extra cash into the markets through short-term securities purchases.

Many analysts have dropped their forecasts for China, the world’s second-largest economy, to near 5% from earlier forecasts of 6% economic growth for the year.


2:15 p.m.

Aviation authorities say that two flights carrying dozens of Pakistani students, Chinese and other passengers landed in Pakistan days after Islamabad suspended all flights with Beijing amid the outbreak of a new virus there.

The passengers on Monday were permitted to leave the airport after their medical examinations.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar says the ban on flights to and from China ended Sunday night and that the government health department had made “special arrangements” for screening incoming passengers.

Last week’s ban on flights with China affected 22 weekly flights.

So far, Pakistan has no plans to evacuate some 30,000 nationals, including students, living in China.

Authorities say that so far four Pakistani students in China have been diagnosed with the new virus and their conditions are listed as stable. About 500 Pakistani students were in Wuhan — the site of the outbreak — at the time it surfaced.


10:40 a.m.

South Korea’s defense ministry says about 800 South Korean soldiers have been placed under quarantine as a precaution against a new coronavirus from China.

Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo told reporters Monday that the soldiers either recently visited China, Hong Kong or Macau, or contacted people who visited those countries.

She says 450 of them are quarantined at their military bases and the remaining 350 at their homes.

South Korea has so far reported 15 cases of the new coronavirus, but none of them is affiliated with the country’s 600,000-strong military.