Changi widens checks as Wuhan virus spreads in China, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Changi widens checks as Wuhan virus spreads in China

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Fears of major outbreak rise as expert in China says virus is contagious between humans

Singapore has stepped up precautionary measures against the mysterious Wuhan virus in anticipation of more travellers in the lead-up to the Chinese New Year holidays.

The move comes as the seventh suspected case here was identified yesterday - a 44- year-old Singapore resident with pneumonia who recently travelled to Wuhan in China's Hubei province.

The woman has been isolated as a precautionary measure, although she did not visit the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where live animals and wildlife parts were reportedly sold and have been associated with the Wuhan virus cluster.

Her condition is stable at the moment, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a Chinese government expert said yesterday that the Sars-like virus is contagious between humans, fuelling fears of a major outbreak as millions travel for the festive period, AFP reported.

Dr Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at the National Health Commission, said in an interview with CCTV: "It can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission."

He said two patients in Guangdong were infected by family members who had visited Wuhan.

Fourteen medical staff helping coronavirus patients have also been infected, he added.

The World Health Organisation said earlier that an animal source seemed to be "the most likely primary source" with "some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts".

The expanded measures in Singapore include temperature screening of all travellers arriving from China at Changi Airport from tomorrow. They will also be issued health advisory notices.

Previously, only travellers from Wuhan were screened.

Those found to have travelled to Wuhan within two weeks before the onset of pneumonia symptoms will be quarantined in hospital and investigated, MOH said.

The ministry and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases have developed a joint clinical guidance about the disease that has been given to emergency departments, infectious disease physicians and public sector hospital laboratories to prepare them for cases here.

Singapore has yet to have a confirmed case of the mystery illness. A previous suspected case, a 52-year-old man, tested negative for the coronavirus.

But MOH said: "Given that Singapore is a travel hub, we expect to see more suspect cases and cannot rule out the possibility of imported cases."

Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min also said in a Facebook post that Singapore was monitoring the situation as an increase in travel was expected during this festive period.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has reported an alarming tripling of the number of people infected with the virus.

The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said 136 new infections were identified over the weekend, bringing the total to 198. There have been three deaths so far.

Five new cases were reported in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong province and one in Shanghai.

Japan and South Korea have one reported case each while Thailand has two.

The authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan.

In his first public comments on the virus, Chinese President Xi Jinping said yesterday: "People's lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed."

China said it does not know the source of the new virus, known as the 2019-nCoV virus.

More than 100 million train trips have been taken since the mass migration began about 10 days ago, the national railway operator said on Sunday.

Officials in Wuhan, a major transport hub, have carried out temperature screenings at the airport, railway stations, coach stations and piers since last Tuesday.

Passengers with fever were registered, given masks and taken to medical facilities.

A finance worker, 26, told AFP that she and her friends had been reminding each other to wear masks as a precaution.

"We are not sure how else we can protect ourselves," she said. "What else can we do? We still have to go home over the Spring Festival."