Changi widens checks as Wuhan virus infects more cities in China

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Temperature checks at Singapore's Changi Airport will be expanded to cover all travellers flying in from China amid reports that the mysterious Sars-like virus has spread beyond Wuhan.

The city in Hubei province itself reported a dramatic tripling of the number of people infected with the virus, while new cases were confirmed in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. South Korea also reported its first case after a sick woman flew into Seoul from Wuhan.

China's health commission said yesterday that medical workers have been infected by the virus, confirming it can be transmitted between people.

The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said it identified 136 new infections at the weekend, bringing the total number of infections, which have claimed three lives, to 198 in the city.

The sharp spike in cases comes as travelling intensifies ahead of this weekend's Chinese New Year holiday, sparking fears that the mass human movement could contribute to the spread of the disease.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min said in a Facebook post that an increase in travel was expected during this period, and Singapore was monitoring the situation.

The Republic has raised its defences. From tomorrow, all passengers arriving from China will undergo temperature screening. Until now, this was being done only for flights arriving from Wuhan.

The Ministry of Health said: "Given that Singapore is a travel hub, we expect to see more suspect cases, and cannot rule out the possibility of imported cases."

Apart from the spike in the number of cases in Wuhan, five new cases were reported in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong province and one in Shanghai.

Two of the patients in Beijing had travelled to Wuhan, said a post on the official Twitter-like Weibo of the Daxing Municipal Health Commission, an area in southern Beijing that is home to the city's international airport.

In his first public comments on the virus, Chinese President Xi Jinping said yesterday it must be "resolutely contained", adding that "the safety of people's lives and their physical health should be given top priority".

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the spike in numbers is the result of increased searching and testing among people who have respiratory illnesses.

It also said that an animal seems the most likely primary source of infections, "with some limited human-to-human transmission between close contacts".

China said it still does not know the source of the new coronavirus, known as the 2019-nCov virus.

Most of the cases in Wuhan have been traced to a seafood wholesale market, but the fact that several patients had no connection to the site also suggests the virus has spread by other means.

A city of 11 million, Wuhan is a major transport hub, and officials have carried out temperature screenings at the airport, railway stations, coach stations and piers since Jan 14. Passengers with fever were being registered, given masks and taken to medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the Singapore authorities said that a 44-year-old female Singapore resident with pneumonia is being tested and treated at a hospital. A previous suspected case, a 52-year-old man, has tested negative for the virus.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2020, with the headline Changi widens checks as Wuhan virus infects more cities in China. Subscribe