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US declares public health emergency over coronavirus, limits flights from China to 7 cities

US declares public health emergency over coronavirus, limits flights from China to 7 cities
The US has declared an ongoing coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency, limiting points of entry to incoming Chinese flights and banning from entry some foreign nationals who traveled to China in the last two weeks.

“I have today declared that coronavirus presents a public health emergency in the United States,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, announcing the measure on Friday. He stressed that the move was to “complement the work of China and the World Health Organization” that declared a global health crisis on Thursday.

The death toll from the novel virus, which originated in China, has leaped to 259, as it spread to over 20 countries, including the US.

Under the emergency, any US citizens who traveled to China’s Hubei province, where the virus had originated, would be subject to “up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine,” Azar said.

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However, he noted that those US citizens who were in China, but outside Hubei, would face less harsh restrictions. They will have to go though “proactive entry health screening at the select number of ports of entry” and observe “up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine” instead.

Only seven airports were designated as ports of entry for US-bound flights from China. These are Atlanta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli announced.

Except for immediate family of either US citizens or US permanent residents, all other aliens who visited China over the previous 14 days will be turned away as they attempt to entry the US for the duration of the emergency, Azar said.

Washington’s new travel restrictions come after a first person-to-person transmission of coronavirus was registered on the US soil. A Chicago man had contracted the flu-like 2019-nCoV from his wife, who had recently traveled to Wuhan, Hubei.

A seventh confirmed coronavirus case in the US was reported in Northern California on Friday, when a man tested positive for the virus after having traveled to China. In addition, dozens of Americans who were recently evacuated from Wuhan on a special-purpose charter plane, are currently being monitored, along with scores of other possible cases across at least 26 US states.

Also on rt.com China condemns ‘truly mean’ US travel warning, as coronavirus runs rampant

US efforts to curb the spread of the virus by imposing limits on air travel did not sit well with Beijing. Noting that the WHO urged countries to avoid travel restrictions, Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the US crackdown as “truly mean.”

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also raised some eyebrows earlier, when he suggested that the outbreak could benefit the US economy by speeding up the return of jobs from Asia to North America.

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