US expands coronavirus screenings to 15 new US airports

Published on : Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the the country’s State Department late Monday expanded their travel advisories to cover all of China due to the coronavirus outbreak.


The broader travel alerts come as the U.S. plans to expand screening for the virus to 20 airports from the current five. Details on the additional airports have not been released but Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech Monday that the airports collectively handle 90 per cent of all passengers from China. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport confirmed that it is one of the 15 additional airports.


The CDC issued a level 3 travel warning, its highest level, recommending travellers avoid all nonessential travel to China. Previously only Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, was at a Level 3. The rest of China was rated Level 2, which recommends “practice enhanced precautions.”


“The outbreak is growing and there is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas,” the CDC said.


The only other country with a CDC Level 3 warning is Venezuela due to shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine and medical supplies.


Private companies are also giving warnings to employees. On Monday, Facebook restricted its employees’ travel to China.


Hong Hong, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam were top destinations, but Chinese tourists are big spenders in cities like London, Milan, Paris and New York.


Meanwhile, Hong Kong said Tuesday it would cut all links to mainland China as the United States and other governments prepared to evacuate citizens from the Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak that has now killed more than 100 people.


Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, stopped short of a total closing of the border, as North Korea and Mongolia have done, but said that flights from the mainland would be reduced.


The U.S. Consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where authorities cut off most access Jan. 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city on Wednesday.


Japan and South Korea said they would send planes to Wuhan this week to evacuate their citizens. France, Mongolia and other governments also planned evacuations.


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