Australia, Vietnam Step Up Efforts Against Spread of Coronavirus

Date : 02/01/2020 @ 2:43PM
Source : Dow Jones News
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Australia, Vietnam Step Up Efforts Against Spread of Coronavirus

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By Erin Mendell 

HONG KONG -- Australia and Vietnam were the latest countries to join the U.S. in distancing their citizens from China as it battles a dangerous viral outbreak, while Apple Inc. shut its stores on the Chinese mainland and Beijing pledged more support for embattled businesses.

Australia said Saturday that it would impose new entry restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of a new coronavirus, banning foreign nationals who have been in mainland China in the past 14 days from entering Australia, while Qantas Airways Ltd., the country's national carrier, said Saturday that it would suspend flights to the mainland starting Feb. 9.

Vietnam's civil aviation authority said it would halt all flights to and from Taiwan and China, including the special Chinese territories of Macau and Hong Kong, starting Saturday.

Several countries and airlines have suspended flights to China, including Pakistan, Italy and the U.S.'s American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc.

The move by Australia, which also ordered its citizens returning from China to self-quarantine for 14 days, to tighten entry restrictions followed a U.S. tightening. A day earlier, the U.S. said it would deny entry to foreign nationals who had traveled anywhere in China within the past 14 days and imposed quarantines on Americans returning from Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.

The new pneumonia-causing coronavirus has killed 259 people and infected nearly 12,000 in China as of late Friday, according to the official National Health Commission in Beijing. The number of infected patients in China alone now exceeds the global total for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed nearly 800 people after emerging from southern China in 2002 and 2003.

Authorities in Beijing on Saturday pledged more support for the economy, which was facing challenges before being battered by the coronavirus, in a bid to reassure investors before markets reopen on Monday.

Companies and industries in regions hit particularly hard by the outbreak, including those that provide medical supplies, could enjoy reduced lending rates, the central bank said in a joint statement with other government agencies, including the Finance Ministry and the banking regulator.

China's cabinet said separately Saturday that products imported from the U.S. to control the outbreak will be exempt from punitive tariffs through March 31. Authorities also exempted tariffs and other taxes on products donated by overseas entities, according to a joint statement by the Finance Ministry and the customs agency.

Resources are strained in virus-stricken Hubei province, and medical staff have been forced to turn away patients because of a lack of beds and basic medical supplies.

Local authorities in Huanggang, a city about 35 miles east of Wuhan, imposed new restrictions on residents' movements Saturday, saying only one person per household in the city center would be allowed to go out every two days to purchase basic necessities.

Apple closed all of its Apple retail stores in mainland China until Feb. 9, its Chinese website showed Saturday.

Also Saturday, North Korea said through its state media that it would send an aid fund to Chinese authorities, a rare extension of aid from Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, "expressed deep consolation for the families who lost their blood relatives due to the infectious disease," according to a report in Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea--a close ally of China that has long been dependent on China's largess--was among the first countries to adopt stringent measures to keep the coronavirus outside its borders, and vowed to redouble its efforts Saturday.

"The novel coronavirus throws the world into uneasiness and horror, but the advantages and might of our state system...will be fully demonstrated to the whole world once again, when we ensure that the virus does not reach our country and that no one suffers from the infections," it read.

--Rachel Pannett, Liyan Qi, Bingyan Wang,

Xiao Xiao

and Niharika Mandhana contributed to this article.

Write to Erin Mendell at erin.mendell@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 01, 2020 09:28 ET (14:28 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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