Countries around the world are taking differing approaches to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in China from spreading to their borders, with some nations instituting outright bans on Chinese citizens, with others issuing travel warnings or setting up quarantines.
While almost all of the roughly 11,000 cases of the virus are confined to China, more than 100 infections have been reported outside the country. The list of countries with confirmed cases is growing almost daily and currently includes: Australia, Cambodia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, the United States, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates.
The rapid spread of the virus in just two months has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the outbreak a global emergency, with the organization citing fears the virus could spread to poorer countries that would have great difficulty containing it. In China, 258 people have died from the virus, but so far no deaths have been reported outside the country.
The WHO said it does not recommend countries around the world initiate any travel or trade restrictions with China, but that advice has not stopped dozens of nations from putting some kind of restriction in place.
The most restrictive measures taken include travel bans on Chinese citizens.
The United States announced Friday that any foreign national who has recently traveled to China would be barred entry, except for those travelers whose immediate family members are U.S. citizens.
Singapore, a major Asian travel hub, has stopped entry of passengers who have recently traveled to China. Both Singapore and Vietnam have ordered the suspension of new tourist visas for Chinese passport holders.
Several South American countries, including Guatemala and El Salvador, have announced blanket restrictions on travelers who have recently been to China.
In Israel, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Friday barred foreign nationals from entering the country by land or sea if they had traveled to China within the past two weeks. The country has already halted flights from China.
Mongolia’s government plans to bar entry to Chinese nationals as well as foreigners coming from the country beginning Saturday until March 2. In addition, it barred its own citizens from traveling to China during that same period.
Mongolia, along with Russia, North Korea and Kazakhstan have all closed their borders with China.
The WHO warned Friday that closing borders is probably ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus and said it could even increase the spread of the virus by encouraging illegal or unofficial crossings.
To prevent travelers from visiting China and possibly bringing the virus back to their home country, several nations have issued travel warnings.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued what it calls a Level 4-Do Not Travel advisory, and also recommended Americans currently in China leave. The measure raises the warning for China to the same level as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 notice advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China.
Japan, Germany and Britain have advised against nonessential travel to China. Bahrain has recommended that its citizens not travel to any country hit by the virus.
Governments around the world are evacuating their citizens from the central Chinese province of Hubei, where the outbreak began, and putting them in quarantine. In some countries, the quarantine measures are the first of their kind in decades.
On Friday, U.S. health officials issued a two-week quarantine order for 195 Americans evacuated earlier this week from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the very center of the outbreak. The CDC said this was the first federal quarantine ordered since the 1960s, when there were fears of a smallpox outbreak.
In addition, the U.S. government said Friday that any U.S. citizens who had traveled to China’s Hubei province within the past two weeks would be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Many other countries that have chartered planes to bring home citizens stranded by a lockdown in China’s Hubei province have also made plans to quarantine them for two weeks when they get home, the incubation period for the virus. Those countries include Germany, India, Bangladesh and France.
In South Korea, residents near two quarantine centers in Asan and Jincheon — cities about 80 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul — held a protest Thursday against bringing the evacuees to the cities, with some demonstrators throwing eggs at officials.
More than 300 South Koreans were flown home from China Friday and entered the quarantine facilities without incident. More South Koreans are expected to arrive at the facilities Saturday.
In Indonesia, authorities have quarantined more than 40,000 workers at a Chinese-controlled industrial complex on Sulawesi island, although the country has not reported any cases of the virus.
Other travel restrictions have come not from governments but from corporations around the world. All three major U.S. airlines announced Friday they would suspend all flights between the U.S. and mainland China, joining several international carriers that have also canceled flights.
American Airlines said it would stop flights immediately through March 27. Delta said it would wait until Feb. 6 to stop flights and keep them suspended through April 30. Shortly after saying it would only reduce service to mainland China, United Airlines also announced Friday it would suspend flights from Feb. 6 through March 28.
Friday’s decision came after the American Airlines pilots union sued the company to immediately stop flights to and from China because of possible health threats posed by the coronavirus.
Other international airlines that have suspended service to mainland China or announced plans to do so include Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air. Iran suspended all flights to and from China, and many other airlines have reduced flights to China.