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Coronavirus: US, Asia hubs up screening, Aust. waits

Outbreak occurs ahead of Lunar New Year's travel

Three of the busiest airports in the US, along with several major hubs in east Asia, have begun screening passengers from Central China for a new, fast-spreading SARS-like virus that has already infected at least 200 people


However, Australian authorities have yet to commit to additional screening measures for air travellers, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. 



The pneumonic contagion sprung from the Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, where it was linked to a single fish market. 


But while most of the cases - it seemed - were diagnosed within days of the market’s closure on 1 January, a number of people have since become infected – including international travellers. 


According to The Guardian, at least two cases have been confirmed in Thailand, while one case has been picked up in Japan. All three infected people had flown out of Wuhan. 


While there is a direct link between Wuhan and Sydney – on China Eastern Airlines – Australian authorities have yet to implement any extra precautions for those travelling from the Chinese city. 


And the country’s top health official, Professor Brendon Murphy, said there should be no “current need” to do so.


“There is no current need for any travel advisory in Australia, which is consistent with recommendations from the World Health Organisation,” Australia’s chief medical officer said in a statement over the weekend.


Currently, passengers travelling to Australia are required to notify authorities of any viral symptoms like fever, sweats or chills.


But Imperial College London infectious disease expert Stephen Riley, who is part of an international team assessing the situation in central China, said that even if additional screening measures were implemented, there would be little chance of actually stopping the disease. 


“Screening takes up an awful lot of resources … and although it does delay the spread of the virus, it delays it only by a little bit,” he told ABC Radio.


Airports in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines are among the hubs specially screening for coronavirus, as well as San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK). 


China’s busiest travel period occurs this week, as hundreds of millions of people prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year.



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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 20 January 2020

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