Coronavirus: U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency, Will Quarantine China Travelers
The U.S. declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China, ordering as much as a 14-day quarantine of citizens returning from the province at the center of the outbreak and denying entry to some foreigners displaying symptoms.
In addition, flights to the U.S. from China will be restricted to seven airports. U.S. carriers have already significantly cut travel to and from the country.
The actions, announced Friday by President Donald Trump’s newly formed virus task force, will begin Feb. 2.
Under the temporary emergency measure, U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province during the past two weeks will be subject to the quarantine, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Citizens returning from elsewhere in China will be subject to screening and have to self-quarantine for two weeks while being monitored.
Foreign nationals who have been in China recently, and who display symptoms, will be denied entry to the U.S., Azar said.
Earlier, the State Department said it will help American citizens in Wuhan get out of China, according to an official familiar with the matter, amid broad cancellations of flights from the country by private carriers and travel restrictions in the city. Cases have now soared to more than 9,950 globally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that aggressive steps will be needed to stop the coronavirus from taking hold in the U.S.
“If we take strong measures now, we may be able to blunt the impact on the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said on a call with reporters Friday. “The virus is continuing to spread rapidly throughout China.”
The government has put about 200 U.S. citizens repatriated from Wuhan under legal quarantine at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California. The group includes State Department personnel, family members, children and other Americans. It’s the first time such a policy has been used in the U.S. since the 1960s, when a quarantine order was issued to stop the spread of smallpox.
The quarantine was implemented after one person wanted to leave, Messonnier said.
“We are facing an unprecedented public health threat. This is one of the tools in our toolbox,” Messonnier said.
She declined to comment on how other Americans returning from China would be monitored.
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