China accuses United States of spreading coronavirus panic

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 00:00 |
A police outrider heads a convoy of coaches carrying British nationals evacuated from Wuhan in China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Photo/AFP

Beijing, Monday

China accused the United States on Monday of spreading “panic” in its response to the deadly coronavirus, including imposing a ban on Chinese travellers.

The US “hasn’t provided any substantial assistance” and has only created “panic”, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing. 

Washington on Friday declared a public health emergency and temporarily banned the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled to China over the past two weeks, to contain the spread of the outbreak.

Sweeping new restrictions will also be imposed on American citizens, with those returning from the province at the disease’s epicentre placed in facilities for a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Confirmed cases

There have been eight confirmed US cases of the new coronavirus, which originated in a live seafood market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. 

The virus has since spread to more than 24 countries, despite many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.

The World Health Organisation has already declared the outbreak a global emergency, and the Chinese death toll has risen to 362 while total infections reached over 17,000, surpassing the SARS epidemic of two decades ago.

There are more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus in China. Some 361 people have died in the mainland alone.

Outside China, there are more than 150 confirmed cases of the virus—and one death, in the Philippines.

Chunying said the US actions “could only create and spread fear” instead of offering assistance, saying it was the first country to impose a travel ban on Chinese travellers and the first to suggest a partial withdrawal of its embassy staff.

“It is precisely developed countries like the US with strong epidemic prevention capabilities... that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she said, according to a Reuters report.

A handful of countries such as Australia also imposed an entry ban on Chinese travellers shortly after the US ban.

On Monday, Hong Kong said it was suspending from midnight local time (16:00 GMT) 10 out of 13 border crossings with mainland China.

The WHO has actually warned that closing borders could accelerate the spread of the virus, if travellers enter countries unofficially. On January 23 , the US ordered the departure of all non-emergency US personnel and their families from Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus originated.

Less than a week later, it allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and relatives of US government employees from China.

Last week theWorld Health Organisation declared a global health emergency over the new virus. Following this, the US ordered the departure of all US personnel family members under the age of 21 in China.  -Agency

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