By Jaimy Lee
U.S. health officials expanded the number of airports that U.S. citizens returning from China’s Hubei Province will be funneled through as part of the government’s efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
There are now 11 airports that are expected to accept U.S. citizens, immediate family members of citizens, and permanent residents returning from Hubei. Wuhan, the city considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is located in Hubei Province.
On Friday, Trump administration officials said all citizens who have traveled to Hubei Province in the last 14 days would have to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days once they returned to the U.S. At that time, they said there would be seven airports accepting this group of individuals. The current list is: Chicago’s O’Hare International, Dallas Fort Worth International, Detroit Metropolitan, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Honolulu’s Official Daniel K. Inouye International, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, Newark Liberty International, San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, and Washington Dulles International airports.
As of noon on Monday, the only quarantined U.S. citizens are the 195 individuals who returned by Wuhan on a State Department flight last week.
There are 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., nine of which were diagnosed in people who had recently traveled to Wuhan. There are two cases of transmission between spouses.
“We made an aggressive decision in front of an unprecedented threat,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a call Monday with reporters.
At least 361 people have died and 17,205 have been sickened by the novel coronavirus, according to the latest figures from China’s National Health Commission. The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that outside of China there are 151 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 23 countries, including the first ex-China death, in the Philippines.
The case count for the virus has now surpassed that of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which had infected 8,098 people during the 2002 and 2003 outbreak. About 770 had died. There were eight reported SARS infections in the U.S.
Last week marked a historic week. U.S. officials implemented the first mandatory quarantine in 50 years, of 195 U.S. citizens recently returned from Wuhan for two weeks. Starting Sunday night, all travelers returning from China have to go through one of the 11 designated U.S. airports. All citizens returning from Hubei Province have to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days. The U.S. is also no longer allowing foreign nationals, excluding permanent residents and immediate family members of U.S. citizens, to enter the U.S. from mainland China in a bid to limit spread of the virus — a policy that a number of other nations such as Singapore have also implemented.
On Jan. 30, the WHO designated the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) after deciding Jan. 23 not to do so. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in remarks on Monday that the “PHEIC-or-no-PHEIC system is too blunt an instrument for dealing with complex emergencies. We have a green light, a red light, and nothing in between. We need a yellow light, maybe other mechanisms, but the yes-no binary is not really suitable for emergencies.”
Looking ahead, for the WHO to declare the outbreak a pandemic, there needs to be sustained transmission between humans on at least two continents. The last time the WHO declared a pandemic was in 2009, for the H1N1 flu virus, which is also referred to as swine flu. “Sustained transmission is when the virus is transmitting beyond just clusters of cases in people who are contacts,” Lisa Schnirring, news editor for Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy News, said in an email. “Right now, that type of transmission is just happening in China.”
Health care stocks rally again, on treatment plans: Shares of Gilead Sciences Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210293917/composite GILD +0.38% rallied 5% in premarket trading on Monday after the drugmaker said last week that it is working with Chinese authorities to test its investigational antiviral remdesivir as a treatment for people with the virus. Gilead noted in a statement that the therapy hasn’t demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use. The drugmaker plans to conduct a randomized, controlled trial in China as part of those plans, saying that remdesivir has shown “in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against the viral pathogens” Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and SARS, both of which are also coronaviruses. SVB Leerink Research’s Geoffrey Porges wrote in a note on Monday that “while remdesivir is believed to be a potentially effective agent in coronavirus infections, the utility of this agent against the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has yet to be rigorously demonstrated.” The trial is understood to have 270 patients.
Separately, shares of NanoViricides Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202808333/composite NNVC +1.12% , a preclinical company that has also said it is working on a coronavirus treatment, tumbled 32% in premarket trading after rocketing 99.5% the past three days amid a coronavirus rally for some vaccine and drug makers.
SARS benefited Ryanair. Will this coronavirus? Ryanair Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/206299452/delayed XE:RY4C +4.59% CEO Michael O’Leary told investors Monday that European travelers tended to travel locally after outbreaks of SARS in 2003 and avian bird flu in 2009. “It was mildly good for the short-haul business here in Europe,” he said, according to a FactSet transcript of the call. “More people were likely to holiday in Europe rather than traveling long-haul to Asia, etc. And we would think that will play out again. But we should be wary on the short-term impact.”
Lufthansa Group /zigman2/quotes/201210530/delayed XE:LHA +0.23% said it was extending the travel ban, on flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai on its Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines flights, to Feb. 29. The ban was previously until Feb. 9.
“The safety of the passengers and employees is a top priority for the Lufthansa Group,” the company said in a statement. “The Lufthansa Group will continuously monitory the situation of the coronavirus and is in contact with the responsible authorities.”
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