Philippines Reports First Coronavirus Death Outside China


HONG KONG — A 44-year-old man in the Philippines has died of the coronavirus, the first known fatality outside China, health officials said on Sunday, as the number of deaths jumped to more than 300 and other countries expanded travel restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the outbreak.

The man, whose name was not released, was a resident of Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak. He died on Saturday after developing what officials called “severe pneumonia.”

“This is the first known death of someone with 2019-nCoV outside of China,” the World Health Organization’s office in the Philippines said in a statement, using the technical shorthand for the coronavirus.

Philippine health officials said the man had arrived in the country on Jan. 21 with a 38-year-old woman. She remains under observation.

Hours before the announcement, the Philippines said it was temporarily barring non-Filipino travelers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

In Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, a new union representing health care workers vowed to strike on Monday to force the city’s government to ban travel from mainland China. Fears in the city escalated after another case was confirmed and officials could not rule out the possibility that the patient, an 80-year-old man, had been infected within Hong Kong.

“We are very worried,” Chuang Shuk-kwan, a health official, said at a news conference on Sunday. “Everyone should prepare mentally for the possibility that the disease is spreading within the community.”

Hours later, the government announced its 15th case, which appeared to confirm local transmission of the virus. A 72-year-old woman who had largely stayed at home was infected, likely via her son. He returned from a trip to Wuhan on Jan. 23.

By Sunday, with infections standing at more than 14,000 worldwide, nations continued to expand travel restrictions and bar visitors from China.

New Zealand said on Sunday that it would deny entry to visitors departing from or traveling through mainland China for two weeks starting on Monday. Citizens and residents of New Zealand will be allowed entry from China but will be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Ultimately, this is a public health decision,” she said, adding that the restrictions were precautionary measures to keep New Zealand virus-free and to contain the worldwide outbreak.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of ministers in Jerusalem on Sunday to make national preparations “because we estimate that the virus will arrive,” his office said in a statement. Along with preparations “to isolate those who have been infected and treat them” for two weeks at home, the country had temporarily closed “land crossings, seaports and airports to arrivals from China.”

Israeli citizens who visited China will be allowed to return, the statement said.

In addition, about 1,700 Chinese construction workers whose work permits had expired and who were supposed to return to China this weekend would be granted extended stays in Israel. They are being allowed to keep working rather than being replaced by newly recruited laborers who could potentially arrive with the virus, according to Israeli news reports.

The United States and Australia have also expanded travel restrictions, temporarily barring noncitizens who recently traveled to China.

South Korea said on Sunday that it would deny entry to any foreigners who have traveled in the past 14 days to Wuhan and surrounding Hubei Province, the area at the center of the outbreak. In a move to help stop the spread of the virus in Wuhan, the Chinese authorities have fulfilled a promise to build a new 1,000-bed specialty hospital in the city within 10 days. About 1,400 military medics are to begin working there on Monday.

South Korea’s travel restrictions will take effect on Tuesday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in South Korea increased to 15.

Any South Korean returning home who has been in Hubei Province within the past two weeks will be subject to 14 days of self-quarantine and monitoring, the government said. It also said it would bar South Koreans from visiting China as tourists.

Japan will bar noncitizens who traveled recently to Hubei. Taiwan is denying entry to Chinese nationals from Guangdong, a southern coastal province that has been battered by the virus, and travelers who recently visited the area.

Vietnam recently barred almost all flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan until May 1, according to the United States Federal Aviation Administration. But Vietnam then eased its ban, allowing flights from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to continue while keeping the prohibitions in place for mainland China, the aviation authorities said.

Taiwan, which is self-ruled but which China claims is part of its territory, complained on Sunday that it was being punished with flight restrictions because the World Health Organization considers it part of China.

Italy included Taiwan in a ban on flights from China, a move that it announced after the W.H.O. declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. While Vietnam backtracked, Italy’s ban remains, Taiwan’s foreign minister told reporters.

Taiwan has 10 confirmed cases, versus more than 14,000 in mainland China, said the foreign minister, Joseph Wu.

“The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Taiwan is not higher than in most countries affected,” he said. “Other than China, no other country, no other country has had its flight banned by Italy.”

China has long sought to limit Taiwan’s diplomatic relations and recognition at international bodies such as the W.H.O. Taiwan previously participated as an observer at the World Health Assembly, the group’s governing body. But it has since been excluded as Beijing has increased pressure on Taiwan under President Tsai Ing-wen, who is skeptical about closer ties with Beijing.

“It is not fair to the 23 million people in Taiwan, and it is not fair to other people who might otherwise obtain support from Taiwan if we were not excluded,” Mr. Wu said.

In Hong Kong, some residents are pushing for tougher restrictions on arrivals from mainland China. As many as 9,000 medical workers have pledged to strike beginning on Monday, a threat that alarms the territory’s officials as they are struggling to contain the outbreak.

The workers are demanding that Hong Kong close all checkpoints to visitors from mainland China, saying they represent a threat to health care workers. The workers plan to paralyze nonemergency and emergency services at hospitals, said the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a union formed during the city’s antigovernment protest movement.

“We believe such actions are our last resort,” the alliance wrote in a statement on Saturday night.

Under the plan, nonessential hospital staff members who belong to the union would not go to work on Monday. If the government did not close the border and heed their other demands by 9 p.m. local time, union members handling emergency services would also strike, the union said.

Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, appealed to medical workers to reconsider, comparing them to guardians of the public.

“At this critical moment, I believe the general public would count on medical personnel to fight against the epidemic together, in the spirit of professionalism,” he wrote in a blog post on Sunday.

Government officials in Hong Kong say that the number of visitors from the mainland and other countries had decreased significantly after they closed several border points and rail stations and cut flight arrivals by half.

But several border locations remain open, and many medical workers fear being overwhelmed by a flood of visitors seeking treatment in Hong Kong’s well-regarded health care system.

They have also voiced frustrations about patients from mainland China hiding their travel and medical history, potentially endangering other patients.

Reporting was contributed by Chris Buckley from Wuhan, China; Alexandra Stevenson and Sui-Lee Wee from Hong Kong; Choe Sang-Hun from South Korea; Jason Gutierrez from Manila; and David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.


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