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Passengers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia, at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: AFP

Trump says US has ‘shut down’ coronavirus threat, offers help to China

  • The US president appeared to play down concerns about the flu-like virus that has killed more than 300 people in China
  • Trump’s national security adviser says that Beijing has not accepted US offers of assistance

The United States has taken decisive action to protect Americans from the threat of a fast-moving coronavirus while offering help to China, President Donald Trump said on Sunday, but a key adviser said Beijing had not accepted the offers of assistance.

Trump appeared to play down concerns about the flu-like virus that has killed more than 300 people in China and spread to more than two dozen countries, telling Fox television in an interview: “We’re gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.”

Concerns about the virus spurred the United States to declare a public health emergency and bar entry to foreign nationals who have recently visited China.

Coronavirus: French authorities say 20 people evacuated from China showing virus symptoms

Under new restrictions that went into effect at 5pm Sunday, US citizens who have travelled in China within 14 days will be directed to one of seven airports designated for screening.

“We can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem – the coronavirus,” Trump told Fox during a short interview broadcast on Sunday. He said US officials had offered China “tremendous help” in dealing with the epidemic.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, in a separate interview, said China has been more open about the coronavirus than it has been in previous crises but had not yet accepted US offers of assistance.

“So far the Chinese have been more transparent certainly than in past crises and we appreciate that,” O’Brien said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.

He said Beijing has still not responded to US offers of help from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other health professionals.

“We’ve got tremendous expertise,” O’Brien said. “This is a worldwide concern. We want to help our Chinese colleagues if we can and we’ve made the offer and we’ll see if they accept the offer.”

CDC officials have not been invited into China, but are in neighbouring Kazakhstan to help guard against the spread of the virus, UN Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday during a visit there.

On Monday he said the United States would send more flights to China to bring back US citizens from Hubei province, the epicentre of a virus epidemic.

“We might be bringing citizens home from other countries as well. In addition we might bring in some medical supplies,” Pompeo said.

Nearly 200 Americans evacuated from China last week were placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine in California.

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China’s National Health Commission said the coronavirus has killed 361 people in China, and infections jumped to 17,205 as of Sunday.

At least 171 cases have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and regions, including the United States, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Britain.

So far, nine cases of the fast-spreading virus have been confirmed in the United States, health officials said. The Pentagon is providing housing for people arriving from overseas who might need to be quarantined.

Americans who visited China’s Hubei Province, epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of 14 days – the incubation period of the virus – upon entering the United States. Americans who travelled to other parts of mainland China will undergo health screening and be asked to self-quarantine for up to 14 days.

Foreigners who have travelled in China within 14 days of their arrival will be denied entry.

Chad Wolf, US Homeland Security acting secretary, said the overall risk to the American public remains low.

The latest US patient was in Santa Clara, located in the San Francisco Bay area. The woman is being quarantined and the family she was staying with is now in isolation at their home. The woman was never sick enough to require hospitalisation, Santa Clara County health officials told a news conference.

The woman, who recently travelled to the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, is the second case in Santa Clara reported, health officials said. They said the case is not related to the first case in Santa Clara.

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