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Hong Kong to Cut Rail Links With China 01/28 06:59

   BEIJING (AP) -- Hong Kong said Tuesday it will cut all rail links to 
mainland China as the United States and other governments prepared to evacuate 
citizens from the Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak that has now 
killed more than 100 people.

   Wearing a green surgical mask, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told a news 
conference that both the high-speed and regular train stations connected to the 
mainland would be closed. 

   She stopped short of a total closing of the border, as North Korea and 
Mongolia have done, but said that flights from the mainland would be reduced. 

   China's death toll from the new viral disease rose to 106, including the 
first death in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and 24 others in Hubei province, 
where the first illnesses were detected in December.

   Asian stock markets tumbled for a second day, dragged down by worries about 
the virus's global economic impact.

   The U.S. Consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where authorities 
cut off most access Jan. 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing 
to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city on Wednesday. 
Japan and South Korea said they would send planes to Wuhan this week to 
evacuate their citizens. France, Mongolia and other governments also planned 
evacuations. 

   U.S. health officials expanded their recommendation for people to avoid 
non-essential travel to any part of China, rather than just Wuhan and other 
areas most affected by the outbreak. 

   China's increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the suspension 
of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That 
lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most 
far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed. 

   There were 1,771 new cases confirmed in China on Monday, raising the 
national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 
976 people were in serious condition. 

   The government has sent 6,000 extra medical workers to Wuhan from across 
China, including 1,800 who were due to arrive Tuesday, a commission official, 
Jiao Yahui, said at a news conference. 

   A baby boy was delivered by surgery in Wuhan after his 27-year-old mother 
was hospitalized as a "highly suspected" virus case, state TV reported. The 
mother, who has a fever and cough, was 37 weeks pregnant, or two weeks less 
than a standard full term. 

   Doctors wore protective masks and clothing for the delivery Friday at Union 
Hospital. 

   "It was unlikely for her to be able to give natural birth," said the 
hospital's deputy director of obstetrics, Zhao Yin. "After the baby was born, 
the mother would suffer less pressure in her lungs and she could get better 
treatment." 

   In Beijing, residents of two villages in the capital's eastern Pinggu 
district were refusing to allow outsiders to enter in an effort to avoid the 
virus. 

   "The village has been locked down," a member of the Beitumen village 
committee who would give only his surname, Guo, said by telephone. He said 
villagers are allowed to go out to buy daily necessities. 

   Another village, Jingyu, imposed similar restrictions, said a member of the 
local committee who wouldn't give his name. 

   The Education Ministry canceled English proficiency and other tests for 
students to apply to foreign universities. The ministry said the new semester 
for public schools and universities following Lunar New Year was postponed 
until further notice. 

   Hong Kong announced postal services and most government offices would stay 
closed through at least next week. The education department said schools would 
reopen on Feb. 17. 

   Chinese financial markets were closed for the holiday, but stock indexes in 
Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney all declined. 

   Beijing's official response has "vastly improved" since the 2002-03 SARS 
outbreak, which also originated in China, but "fears of a global contagion are 
not put to bed," said Vishnu Varathan at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

   Airlines, resorts and other companies that rely on travel and tourism 
suffered steep losses. Prices of gold and bonds rose as traders moved money 
into safe haven holdings. 

   The Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the world's busiest, announced it was 
postponing the resumption of trading after the holiday by three days to Monday.

   Scientists are concerned about the new virus because it is closely related 
to other diseases including SARS, which killed nearly 800 people.

   So far, the new coronavirus doesn't seem to spread as easily among people as 
SARS or influenza. Most of the cases that spread between people were of family 
members and health workers who had contact with patients. That suggests the new 
virus isn't well adapted to infect people.

   China has reported eight cases in Hong Kong and five in Macao, and more than 
45 cases have been confirmed elsewhere in the world. Almost all involve 
mainland Chinese tourists or people who visited Wuhan.

   On Tuesday, Taiwan said two 70-year-old tourists from Wuhan had been 
confirmed to have the disease, raising its total to seven cases. Thailand 
reported six members of a family from Hubei were new cases, raising its total 
to 14.

   Germany confirmed its first case late Monday. Infections also have been 
confirmed in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, 
Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka. 

   The five American cases --- two in southern California and one each in 
Washington state, Chicago and Arizona --- are people who had recently arrived 
from central China. Health officials said they had no evidence the virus was 
spreading in the United States and they believe the risk to Americans remains 
low.

   During the SARS outbreak, Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting 
slowly and failing to disclose information. The government has responded more 
aggressively to the latest outbreak.

   Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, 
for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next 
week. 

   The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe 
illnesses such as SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The new virus 
causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more 
severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

   The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a 
Wuhan market. China on Sunday banned trade in wild animals and urged people to 
stop eating meat from them.


(KR)

 
 
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