Coronavirus Spreads to the Middle East As Governments Take Measures to Protect Citizens

January 29, 2020 Updated: January 29, 2020

The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has been found in the Middle East, with the United Arab Emirates reporting its first confirmed case on Jan. 29.

The case involves members of a family who were recently in Wuhan, Emirates News Agency reported, citing UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Elsewhere, Australia reported its sixth and seventh confirmed cases on Jan. 29. A man in his 60s in Victoria was tested positive for the virus, according to local broadcaster 9News. The man was recently in Wuhan and became unwell on Jan. 23, more than two days after he returned to Australia.

In Australia’s Queensland, a Chinese man from Wuhan was diagnosed with the virus, according to Australian outlet SBS News.

In response to the outbreak, governments around the world are planning or have taken steps to evacuate their citizens in China.

A total of 206 Japanese citizens arrived in Tokyo on Jan. 29, after boarding a Japanese government-chartered plane from Wuhan. Upon arrival, five of the citizens were hospitalized for having a cough or fever, according to The Japan Times.

A chartered plane from Wuhan carrying about 210 U.S. citizens is expected to arrive at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, on Jan. 29, after a stopover in Alaska for refueling.

The plane was originally destined for  Ontario International Airport in California. Curt Hagman, a commissioner at the Ontario International Airport and the chairman of the San Bernandino County Board of Supervisors, posted a video on his Twitter account explaining the change of destination.

“We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight to March Air Force Base for logistics that they have,” Hagman said.

India and the Philippines have planes standing by to evacuate their citizens in Hubei province.

Some governments have taken measures to cut off their transportation links with China in an effort to stem the outbreak.

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from China for January and February, the Daily Mail reported on Jan. 29.

On the same day, Japanese airliner All Nippon Airways announced that it will extend the suspension of all flights to Wuhan until the end of February, according to The Japan Times

On Jan. 28, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for the immediate suspension of commercial flights between China and the United States, as part of four measures to protect America.

Papua New Guinea closed air and seaports to all foreigners coming from Asia on Jan. 29, according to AFP. Locals returning from Asian countries will be subjected to quarantine for 14 days. The country has not yet reported any case of coronavirus.

In South Korea, multiple local companies have also taken measures to protect their employees from exposure to the virus.

Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors have planned to evacuate hundreds of employees and their family members, according to local outlet The Investor. Meanwhile, LG Electronics and Hanwha Group have banned their employees from taking business trips to China.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer