Japan urges citizens not to travel to China because of virus

Health

Travelers wearing face masks line up near the Japan Airlines check-in counters at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. China counted 170 deaths from a new virus Thursday and more countries reported infections, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from China’s worst-hit region returned home to medical observation and even isolation. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese Foreign Ministry on Friday urged its citizens not to travel to China because of the possibility of the further spread of a new virus.

Japan had previously warned people not to travel in Hubei province, where most of the thousands of cases have occurred.

In expanding the advisory against non-essential travel throughout China, the ministry cited concerns about the disease spreading and noted other countries such as the U.S. were giving similar advice.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said Japan will ban entry of foreigners infected with the new coronavirus.

Abe also said the designation of the new virus as a special infectious disease will take effect Saturday, a week earlier than planned. The designation allows health officials to order hospitalization of patients and take other measures and follows the World Health Organization’s declaration of the illness as a state of emergency.

China has reported thousands of infections and more than 200 deaths from the coronavirus since it was detected in December. Japan’s 14 cases include two person-to-person transmissions, a tour guide and driver who escorted Chinese tourists from Wuhan.

Transportation Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said his ministry has ordered the tour bus company that employed the two patients to have all its employees take medical checks.

Japan has evacuated hundreds of citizens from Wuhan this week. A third chartered flight brought back 150 people from Wuhan earlier Friday, after evacuating 416 on two earlier flights. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government is preparing for another flight to pick up 140 more Japanese who are seeking to evacuate from the Wuhan area.

Twenty-five of the third group of evacuees were hospitalized Friday due to fever, cough or other symptoms, while the remaining 125 people without symptoms were transferred to government facilities for a two-week quarantine, pending their virus test results, the health ministry said.

Two of the evacuees who returned Thursday tested positive for the new virus, both of them asymptomatic cases. With the addition, Japan now has 16 confirmed cases.

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Associated Press writer Foster Klug contributed to this report.

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