Chinese woman dodges airport screening in France, travellers told to heed checks for Wuhan virus

A thermal scanner screens arriving passengers for fever at Tianhe airport in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, on Jan 23, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - Chinese citizens travelling overseas have been urged by their embassies to comply with airport health checks put in place in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The move came after a woman from Wuhan, the Chinese city which lies at the epicentre of the outbreak, travelled to France and said in a social media post that she had taken medicines to bring down her temperature before the plane landed at the airport.

The South China Morning Post reported that she posted photos of herself at a restaurant in France, saying she had flu-like symptoms before she left Wuhan and had been feeling ill when she travelled to France.

"I had a fever and a cough before I left - I was so scared," the Chinese traveller wrote on social network WeChat, according to Chinese news platform Sohu.

"I quickly took some medicine and checked my temperature.

"Luckily the temperature was controlled and I had a smooth journey through the border," she said.

She was identified by the Chinese embassy in France as "Ms Yan".

It is not known which airport in France she travelled to or when she arrived.

Her post attracted critical comments. The Chinese embassy in France out a notice on Wednesday (Jan 22) night, asking citizens to comply with border checks.

"Our embassy has received multiple phone calls and e-mails from Chinese nationals regarding a woman from Wuhan who posted on social media about deliberately taking fever medication in order to evade the airport temperature checks," the notice posted on the embassy's website read.

"We attach high importance to this incident and were able to contact Ms Yan, who is involved in this incident. We have requested that she call the French emergency hotline (for her case) to be handled by the relevant departments."

French authorities meanwhile said they would separate any passengers arriving in the country who had a fever so that they could be assessed by emergency health personnel.

Other Chinese embassies, including in the United States, South Korea and Thailand, have issued similar notices to nationals travelling abroad.

In a separate notice on Thursday, the Chinese embassy in Washington said travellers from Wuhan would face extra quarantine measures at five US airports - New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago.

The US reported two cases of the coronavirus.

In Britain, passengers arriving in London from Wuhan are being placed in isolation to be screened for symptoms.

The death toll in China's viral outbreak has risen to 25, with the number of confirmed cases also leaping to 830, the government said on Friday.

Thailand has reported four cases, Japan and Vietnam two apiece, and South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and the United States one each.

A second possible case was being tested in the US and the BBC reported five people being tested in Scotland. Patients in these cases were either residents of Wuhan or recent visitors to the city.

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