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China’s virus death toll hits 170 with 7,711 infected

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Cruise ship passengers kept on board after two suspected infections

BEIJING: Hundreds of foreign evacuees from the Chinese city of Wuhan entered quarantine yesterday as deaths from a fast-spreading virus rose to 170.

The coronavirus, which originated in an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan city, has now claimed 170 lives and infected more than 7,700 people in China, official data showed.

Almost all the deaths have been in Hubei province - of which Wuhan is the capital - where 60 million people are now living under virtual lockdown, staying inside their homes and only venturing out with masks on.

As other countries fly citizens out, cut flights and corporate travel, and heighten screening, another 105 cases have emerged in at least 16 places from Japan to the US.

An Italian cruise ship's 6,000 passengers were kept on board while tests were done on two Chinese travellers suspected of having the coronavirus.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government was "not worried, but vigilant and cautious".

The couple flew to Milan from Hong Kong on Jan 25, before boading the Costa Smeralda at Savona in northern Italy, according to Italian media reports.

There are some 750 other Chinese passengers on board, who all appear to be in good health, media reports said.

"The couple's cabin has been isolated and they are in with the doctors," an unnamed passenger on the ship was quoted as telling Ansa news agency.

"We are a bit worried of course. No one is getting on or off the ship apart from the doctors. This holiday risks ending in a nightmare".

EVACUATIONS

Singapore, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Indonesia were quarantining evacuees for at least two weeks, though the US and Japan planned shorter, voluntary isolation.

Three Japanese, from 206 evacuated on Wednesday, were infected and, worryingly, two of them had not shown symptoms, Tokyo said.

A second Japanese flight included nine people showing fever or coughing symptoms, broadcaster NHK said.

Meanwhile, South Koreans protested at facilities earmarked as quarantine centres, throwing eggs at a minister.

"The weapons that will protect us from the new coronavirus are not fear and aversion, but trust and cooperation," said South Korean President Moon Jae-in as Seoul prepared to evacuate the first of about 700 citizens from Wuhan.

In the corporate world, Alphabet Inc's Google and Sweden's Ikea were the latest big names to close China operations.

Samsung Electronics said it had extended holiday closure for some Chinese production facilities.

Airlines to suspend flights to China include British Airways, Lufthansa, Air Canada and American Airlines.

Air France cabin crew unions were demanding the same, though the company has already allowed pilots and crew to opt out of China flights. - REUTERS, AFP

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