Coronavirus isolates China more and more from the world - English

Wuhan's coronavirus has not only left the 46 million people living in the blocked cities of the Chinese province of Hubei isolated, the focus of the epidemic. After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international health emergency on Thursday, it is all China that is increasingly disconnected from the rest of the world. Numerous airlines have rushed to cancel their flights to and from China. Different countries have announced the closure of their borders for those who have been in that country in the last fourteen days, including third-country nationals.

Within China, the situation created by 2019-nCoV does not remit. The number of infected is around 14,380; the fatalities reach 304; the people under observation, 163,000, of whom 19,544 are suspected of being infected. The positive news: the number of patients cured, 328, exceeds that of the deceased. The dawn of this Sunday, the Department of Health of the Philippines announced the death of a man, of Chinese nationality and of 44 years, because of the coronavirus.

The virus has already reached 24 countries, which accumulate more than 150 cases, including one in Spain. Only Africa and South America are still free of the virus.

A situation that, according to the United States, justifies a declaration of “public health emergency” in its territory. This country - the first that announced that it would repatriate its citizens in Wuhan after the abrupt closure of that city on the 23rd - will close its borders to any foreigner who does not have family ties with citizens or permanent residents of the United States. UU. and that he had been in China in the two weeks prior to his arrival, the maximum incubation period. The veto will take effect this Sunday, February 2. In addition, US airlines have also announced the temporary suspension of their flights to China.

Other countries have done the same. This Saturday the flight withdrawal announcements multiplied. The well-known British Airways, Iberia or Lufthansa were joined by the Australian Qantas, the Vietnamese airlines or the flag companies of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Iran.

Travelers who have passed through China in the last two weeks will also not be admitted to nations such as Australia, El Salvador, Mongolia, Italy or Singapore.

The measures have caused deep discomfort in the Chinese government, which tries to stop the epidemic as soon as possible and without regard to costs. Beijing wants to make it clear that mistakes such as the management of SARS - the epidemic similar to the current one that killed nearly 800 people worldwide in 2003 - will not be repeated.

"It is not necessary to panic uselessly, or take excessive measures," said the Chinese ambassador to Geneva, Xu Chen, at a press conference. WHO, stressed the diplomat, continues to stress that he has "full confidence" in the ability of the world's second economy to solve the crisis. This UN organization does not consider it necessary to restrict travel or trade with China.

For this country, the closure of borders or the mass departure of foreigners from Wuhan represents a loss of face: a vote of no confidence in their control measures or, in the case of Wuhan evacuations, of their health system, despite the saturation and lack of protective material that the Government itself has admitted. In many cases, bureaucratic obstacles have delayed the repatriation of foreigners for hours or days.

Up to a point, there is no doubt that there is a political component, and not just a health component, in some of the decisions to close borders or keep them open. Despite numerous recommendations from medical specialists, and having already confirmed thirteen cases in its territory, the Hong Kong government has so far refused to completely close the border. It has suspended connections by ferry or high-speed train and reduced the number of flights to mainland China. Medical staff unions threaten to go on strike on Monday if the head of the government, Carrie Lam, does not declare a complete closure.

Other countries with a great economic dependence on China have decidedly placed themselves next to this power. Pakistan is reluctant to evacuate its university students in Wuhan, despite calls from students, to show “solidarity” to the Government in Beijing. A similar argument uses Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. At a press conference in Phnom Penh on Thursday he insisted that his nationals in China, including Wuhan, “have to stay there to help the Chinese people fight this disease. We must not run away from the Chinese people in these difficult times. ”

But the measures of the United States, in particular, threaten to open one more front in the difficult relations between the two great powers, which had signed a truce in their commercial war of almost two years in December. Before the announcement of the border closure, this week the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, said that the coronavirus in China benefited the US while it would force companies to take their supply chains out of the Asian country.

"The words and actions of some American officials are neither based on facts nor adequate," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a statement. “Just as WHO ruled against travel restrictions, the United States hastened to take the opposite path. It is not, of course, a gesture of goodwill

El Pais

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