UN health chief visits China to help with virus containment

BEIJING (AP) — 11:20 p.m.

The director-general of the World Health Organization has flown to China to meet with government officials and health experts trying to contain the spread of a deadly virus that has killed 81 people in China and infected 2,750.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said the U.N. health agency wants “to understand the latest developments and strengthen our partnership with China in providing further protection against the outbreak.”

Last week, WHO held off on declaring the virus a global health emergency. It said China had taken very strong measures — including locking down cities that are home to 50 million people — that the agency hoped would be effective in containing the virus and “short in duration.”

Tedros said he would not hesitate to reconvene the WHO emergency committee at a moment’s notice if the situation in China changed. He said that could happen “in a day” if that was needed.


10:10 p.m.

The mayor of the Chinese city where a deadly virus broke out says he would be willing to resign if it helps the government contain its spread.

Mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV that both he and Wuhan’s Communist Party secretary are willing to take responsibility for closing off the city, including being removed from office.

As the virus spread through China and overseas, transportation links to the city were cut last week to prevent more people from leaving.

Zhou also responded to allegations that the city was slow to disclose information in the early days of the outbreak, saying local governments are restricted from releasing information about infectious diseases without authorization.

9:40 p.m.

Public health officials in Canada said Monday that the wife of the man who is Canada’s first case of the emerging virus from China has also tested positive for the virus.

Ontario said the woman has been in self-imposed isolation since arriving in Toronto with her husband last week.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of health David Williams said the woman tested positive for the virus at Ontario’s public health laboratory. He said because she has been in self-isolation, the risk to Canadians remains low.

But Canadian officials have been reaching out to those aboard the China Southern Airlines flight who sat within two meters (6 1/2 feet) of the man.

Public health officials said the woman’s husband, a man in his 50s, had been showing mild symptoms on his flight from Guangzhou, China, to Toronto. His first flight started in Wuhan.


9:00 p.m.

Cambodia’s health minister says a Chinese visitor to a popular resort is his country’s first case of the new virus.

Mam Bunheng told a press conference that a 60-year-old Chinese man in the southern coastal city of Sihanoukville was confirmed on Monday to have the virus.

He said the infected man had flown directly from Wuhan to Sihanoukville on Jan. 23, showing symptoms of the illness on Saturday. The Pasteur Institute in the capital, Phnom Penh, confirmed the infection from a blood sample. The man is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville is a popular destination for Chinese visitors. The man’s three travelling companions from Wuhan were found not to have the virus.

8:30 p.m.

Hong Kong has confirmed two more cases of a new virus that started in central China, raising its total to eight.

Health department official Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan said Monday that all the cases are connected to Hubei province, where the outbreak started in December. She said there is no sign yet of it spreading to Hong Kong’s general population.

Chuang added the government is still very concerned about that possibility and will watch developments.

Chinese health authorities say the new virus has infected 2,744 people and killed 80 as of midnight Sunday.


8:10 p.m.

Thailand’s prime minister has spoken on television to try to reassure citizens that his government is taking all possible measures to cope with the outbreak of a deadly pneumonia-like virus in China.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha spoke Monday as public concerns rose after eight cases of the virus had been confirmed in the country, seven of them visitors from China and one Thai.

He said authorities so far ‘”are able to control the situation 100%, but we should not be careless.”

The prime minister said “suitable measures” have been taken to control the outbreak, including monitoring at the country’s five international airports.

Chinese health authorities said the new coronavirus had infected 2,744 people and killed 80 as of midnight Sunday.


7:30 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says his country is considering evacuating its citizens from Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the center of a outbreak of a pneumonia-like virus that has killed 80 people so far.

Heiko Maas told reporters Monday that the German government’s crisis response committee would meet shortly with medical experts to evaluate the situation. The foreign ministry currently advises Germans to refrain from or postpone “non-essential travel” to China.

He said the German embassy is in touch with its citizens in Wuhan, which a spokeswoman said number about 90 people. Mass says “we are examining and preparing for all options.”

A consular team is expected to arrive in Wuhan later Monday to provide Germans there with assistance.


7:15 p.m.

Malaysia’s government has announced it will ban travelers from the central Chinese city of Wuhan and other parts of surrounding Hubei province beginning immediately.

A statement issued Monday by the Prime Minister’s Department said Malaysia would stop issuing visas for Chinese travelers from those areas.

The statement said the decision was made after consultations with experts and following advice of the World Health Organization.

Normal visa procedures will resume once the “situation returns to normal.”

The government also warned people not to spread any false information that might alarm the public.


6:45 p.m.

Mongolia’s official news agency says the country’s Cabinet on Monday closed border crossings with China and suspended university classes to prevent the spread of a new viral disease.

There are no confirmed cases in Mongolia of the coronavirus cases that first surfaced in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and have now spread to at least a dozen countries. But the Montsame news agency said the Cabinet cited the “high risk” of the disease spreading across the country’s southern border.

The Cabinet also ordered public tours, children’s playgrounds and other public activities in the sprawling, sparsely populated North Asian nation to close.

The report said border crossings with China were closed to vehicles and pedestrians.

Universities and other higher education institutions were ordered closed until March 2. That followed an earlier order for public schools and kindergartens to close effective Monday through March 2.

Chinese health authorities said the new coronavirus had infected 2,744 people and killed 80 as of midnight Sunday.