The Latest: Rival Koreas close liaison office over outbreak

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

10 a.m.

The rival Koreas have agreed to suspend operations at their liaison office in North Korea until the new virus outbreak comes under control.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Thursday it plans to bring back 58 South Korean officials and workers from the office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong as soon as possible.

The ministry says the Koreas have agreed to establish new telephone and fax lines between Seoul and Pyongyang to perform liaison duties.

South Korea has reported four cases of the illness. North Korea hasn’t officially reported a case, but its state media have called for intensive national efforts to prevent the virus from spreading to the country.


8:35 a.m.

The death toll has risen to 170 in the new virus outbreak in China, with 7,711 cases reported within the country.

Thursday’s figures cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases. Of the new deaths, 37 were in the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province and one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The news comes as the 195 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, the Hubei province city of 11 million where the outbreak originated, are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

World health officials expressed “great concern” Wednesday that the virus is starting to spread between people outside of China. The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.


12:10 a.m. Thursday

A plane evacuating 201 Americans from the Chinese city at the center of the virus outbreak has arrived in California.

The jet landed Wednesday morning at March Air Reserve Base east of Los Angeles after all passengers passed health screenings during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

The passengers will undergo additional screenings in California and be placed in temporary housing. Officials have not said how long they will stay there.


11:45 p.m.

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist is on artificial respiration in a Paris hospital with a new virus that is rapidly spreading, after two French hospitals initially declined to test him for the sickness.

France has four confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus, including two people in intensive care, and is seeking to repatriate hundreds of people from China.

The 80-year-old arrived in France last Thursday and went to an emergency room in southern Paris on Saturday with a fever, said Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, infectious diseases chief at Bichat Hospital.

The man had a fever but no signs of respiratory trouble, and is not from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but about 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of there, Yazdanpanah told reporters Wednesday.

Because he “didn’t fulfill the definition” of someone at risk of having the virus, two hospitals decided it was unnecessary to test him, Yazdanpanah said.

“If we have to hospitalize all patients who have a fever and come from China, that’s dangerous for our hospital system in general,” he said.

The tourist developed respiratory trouble on Wednesday, and tested positive for the virus. The hospitals held an emergency meeting to identify any personnel or patients who had been in touch with the man, who was put on artificial respiration and has a severe case of the virus, Yazdanpanah said.

Bichat Hospital is leading French efforts to treat patients with the virus but hospital officials said it only has nine beds equipped for infected patients.


11 p.m.

Germany’s Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss are suspending flights to mainland China through Feb. 9 as fears spread about a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

Lufthansa said in a statement Wednesday that the airlines will fly one last time to their destinations in China, giving passengers a chance to catch their flights and bringing crews back to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The airlines will continue to fly to Hong Kong as scheduled.

British Airways has also halted all flights to China and American Airlines has suspended flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing. They joined several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service to China as fears spread about the coronavirus.

Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.


8:30 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the country’s government to be prepared to deal with a possible outbreak of a new virus from China.

“It is a new phenomenon, and the question is how well we are prepared for this challenge,” Putin said during a meeting with several Cabinet members.

Russia shares a long border with China. Up to 2 million tourists from China visit Russia every year, with about the same number of Russian tourists traveling to China.

So far there haven’t been any confirmed cases of the virus in Russia.

Since the start of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, officials have reported testing 1.3 million people who returned from China. More than 130 of them have been hospitalized with suspected coronavirus, but in the end were diagnosed with other conditions.


8 p.m.

German auto parts maker Webasto said Wednesday it has temporarily shut its headquarters near Munich after four members of its staff were confirmed to have been infected with a new virus earlier this week.

The infections are believed to have occurred following contact with a Chinese employee from Wuhan who had traveled to Germany to lead a training session.

The company said most of the 1,000 staff at the site in Stockdorf are working from home for the time being. Webasto has an annual turnover of about 3.4 billion euros from the sale of panoramic car roofs and other auto parts, about half of which goes to China.


7:45 p.m.

China has reported more infections from a new virus than it had from an outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003, although the death toll is still lower.

China said it has confirmed 5,974 cases of the new virus, compared to 5,327 cases of SARS.

It also reported another large jump in cases on Wednesday and a rise in the death toll to 132. That compares to 348 people killed in China during SARS. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

Scientists say there are still many critical questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how transmissible and severe it is. More than 50 cases have been reported outside China.


7:30 p.m.

The British government is preparing to fly citizens back from the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak of a new virus, and will put them in quarantine for two weeks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted Wednesday that “anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.”

Britain’s Press Association news agency reported that the returning Britons will likely be held on a military base.

There are an estimated 200 British citizens in Wuhan, and a flight is expected to bring them home on Thursday.

At least 132 people have died and more than 6,000 have been infected with a new type of coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan in December.

The British government has advised against all but essential travel to mainland China, and British Airways on Wednesday said it is suspending flights to and from the country, apart from Hong Kong.


7 p.m.

Kazakhstan has suspended all flights, train and bus services to neighboring China and stopped issuing visas to Chinese nationals due to the outbreak of a new virus.

The government announced halting all flights to China starting Monday and all trains as of Saturday. Passenger bus service was suspended earlier Wednesday. Kazakhstan, a vast nation in Central Asia, shares a long border with China.

Kazakh authorities have also rejected a proposal by the International Tennis Federation to move a series of the Federation Cup games to Kazakhstan from China.

Thirty-five people who recently traveled to China remain hospitalized in Kazakhstan, but none has been confirmed to be suffering from coronavirus.


6:15 p.m.

Four members of a Chinese family who traveled to the United Arab Emirates are being treated for a new virus.

The statement from health officials, carried by the state-run WAM news agency, comes after authorities earlier acknowledged the first cases Wednesday in the country that’s home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Earlier, it said the family came from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

It did not explain how or when the family traveled from Wuhan to the UAE, the home of long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways.


5 p.m.

Australian health officials say the Chinese women’s national soccer team is being quarantined in Brisbane city over concerns about the possible spread of a new virus.

Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says 32 people — including players and staff — traveled through the virus-effect Chinese city of Wuhan a week ago.

The team will be kept in isolation in a Brisbane hotel until Wednesday next week. The group arrived in Brisbane on a flight from Shanghai on Tuesday before border officials placed them in isolation.

They are travelling with a team doctor and none has shown symptoms.


4:15 p.m.

British Airways says it’s immediately suspending all of its flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

BA said in a statement Wednesday that “we apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.”

The airline operates daily flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain’s Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has killed more than 130 people.


11: 15 a.m.

Australia and New Zealand will work together to evacuate their isolated and vulnerable citizens from China’s virus-hit Hubei province.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday could not say how many or how soon citizens would be flown by Qantas from Hubei. The departures would be arranged in consultation with China.

The citizens would be sent for 14 days to a quarantine center on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean which has been used to hold asylum seekers and foreign criminals facing deportation.

Australia and New Zealand have also ratcheted up their travel advice for China.

Australia has advised its citizens to reconsider their need to travel to China and not to travel to Hubei.

New Zealand’s government advised people to avoid all non-essential travel to China due to the coronavirus outbreak.


10 a.m.

Two Japanese men evacuated from a virus-hit Chinese city say they felt relieved but also exhausted upon their arrival in Tokyo.

They were aboard a chartered flight Japan arranged to evacuate 206 Japanese citizens from Wuhan.

Takeo Aoyama who works for Nippon Steel Corp. and Takayuki Kato, who works for Intec, both wore masks but said they felt fine.

Kato said he was not panicking in Wuhan, but “I was shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That’s when the situation drastically changed.”

China cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to try to contain the outbreak of the new type of coronavirus that has infected thousands of people.

Aoyama said many people who wish to go home to Japan are still in Wuhan, including workers at a Japanese supermarket chain staying open to supply food.

He said it is important to step up preventive measures in Japan, but “I hope we can also provide support for the Chinese people, which I think would also help the Japanese people who are still there.”