Following the first confirmed coronavirus death outside China, the country’s defense military on Sunday deployed 1,400 medical personnel to staff a new hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of the novel virus that’s now killed more than 300 people and sickened more than 14,000 in China alone.
CORONAVIRUS DEATH IN PHILIPPINES SAID TO BE FIRST OUTSIDE CHINA
Meanwhile, the mysterious respiratory illness, which now can be spread from human-to-human contact, has infected at least eight people throughout the United States, with the latest case confirmed in Massachusetts Saturday.
Upon direct order of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force on Sunday began airlifting 1,400 medical staff as well as 58 tons of medical supplies to Wuhan, located in China’s Hubei province, the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement. Many of the military doctors and nurses chosen for the job have experience treating either the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 or Ebola in West Africa in 2014.
They are to join the 450 military personnel already in the city. The Chinese military took control of the newly constructed Huoshenshan Hospital on Sunday after it was constructed in less than 10 days. It is expected to open Monday and includes 1,000 beds, intensive care units and sections for diagnosis and infection control, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported. Chinese state media has been live broadcasting the construction of a second makeshift hospital in the city, the Leishenshan Hospital, which is expected to be in operation by Wednesday, the Bangkok Post reported. That facility is to include 1,300 beds.
Over the weekend, a 44-year-old Chinese man visiting the Philippines died from the coronavirus, the World Health Organization confirmed Sunday. He and his female companion, who is currently hospitalized in Manila, both are from Wuhan and stopped in Hong Kong Jan. 21 before traveling to the Philippines. The death was reported hours after Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte was to issue a travel ban on all non-Filipino citizens from China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
CORONAVIRUS DECLARED PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY IN US
An eighth person in the U.S. has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a press release Saturday. The man in his 20s sought medical attention in Massachusetts after returning from Wuhan, China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported other cases in Washington state, California, Arizona and Illinois, according to figures on the agency’s website last updated Friday.
“We are grateful that this young man is recovering and sought medical attention immediately,’’ Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD. MPH, said in a statement. “Massachusetts has been preparing for a possible case of this new coronavirus, and we were fortunate that astute clinicians took appropriate action quickly. Again, the risk to the public from the 2019 novel coronavirus remains low in Massachusetts.”
Also Saturday, a passenger who had arrived to Dublin on a flight from Moscow was taken off the plane by personnel in hazmat suits and transported by ambulance to be placed under quarantine, the Irish Times reported. Photos circulated on social media showing other passengers had been given pamphlets advising them they had “been on a flight with a possible case of novel coronavirus” and to avoid contact with other people that night. A spokesperson from Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) and Department of Health said there were no confirmed cases in the country as of Saturday.
The novel virus has spread to at least 24 countries since its outbreak in China in late December. Seven countries – the U.S., Australia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United Emirates and Vietnam – reported new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, while Spain reported its first case, The Associated Press reported. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Israel have each banned foreigners from entering if they have been in China recently, while Russia, Mongolia and Nepal have closed land borders, AFP reported.
China’s National Health Commission gave new numbers on the outbreak Saturday, reporting an additional 45 deaths, and 2,590 new cases in China. In total, 304 have died and 14,380 have been infected with the virus in China since its outbreak from Wuhan in late December. All deaths — and 1,921 of the new cases — were from Hubei province, the commission said.
The European Union agreed to expedite “needed personal protective equipment” to China following a call with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last week. The EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in contact with all EU Member States to facilitate the delivery, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said in a statement Saturday.
The U.S. military command in South Korea instituted a 14-day self-quarantine effective Sunday for any troops who recently visited China. United States Forces Korea (USFK) said the overall risk on its personnel remained low – no troops had recently traveled to Chinese provinces most heavily affected by the virus – and the policy was a precaution to ensure military readiness remained up to par, Reuters reported. The command also recommended military family members, Defense Department civilians, contractors and others to voluntarily self-quarantine to minimize the risk of infection. Three additional cases in South Korea were reported Sunday, raising the nationwide total to 15. An additional 87 people were being scanned for possible infection.
On Friday, the Trump administration declared the situation a public health emergency in the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that beginning Sunday, U.S. citizens returning from Hubei province will be subject to a 14-day quarantine, while other Americans who traveled elsewhere in China will be instructed to self-monitor for possible symptoms.
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The announcement came after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday. In the same press conference, the Department of Homeland Security announced that starting on Sunday, flights coming to the U.S. from China will be funneled through seven airports that are equipped to screen passengers for symptoms of the virus. Last week, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suspended flights between the U.S. and China. United Airlines said that it was suspending flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, but would continue flying to Hong Kong.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein and The Associated Press contributed to this story.