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Asia Taking No Chances with New China Virus As WHO Meeting Looms
By Staff, Agencies
Countries around the Asia-Pacific and beyond are stepping up their defenses against a new coronavirus that emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and is now known to have infected at least 440 people on the mainland as well as a handful of others overseas.
Cases of what is currently being called 2019-nCOV have now been confirmed in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Macau and the United States.
"Given travel patterns and increased testing, more cases of 2019-nCOV should be expected in other parts of China and possibly other countries in coming days," a spokesman for the World Health Organization [WHO] told Al Jazeera in a statement.
"WHO encourages all countries to continue preparedness activities."
In Asia, which was hit hard in the 2002-03 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which also started in China, authorities are taking no chances.
Measures, including thermal screening, have been introduced at airports in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, with checks targeted at passengers coming from Wuhan.
"It's a matter for each country to look at the frequency of travel from Wuhan and adjust to that," Head of Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales Raina Macintyre said.
Direct flights between China and the rest of the world have expanded rapidly over the past 20 years, with Wuhan's 11 million people now able to fly direct to destinations in Europe and the US as well as cities closer to home, like Seoul, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
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