The World Health Organisation has advised against trade and travel restrictions against China amid the coronavirus outbreak that has so far killed at least 425 people and infected more than 20,000.
- Hong Kong recorded the second death from coronavirus outside mainland China
- Human-to-human transmission has occurred in 27 cases across nine countries
- WHO said travel and trade bans were not advised and could cause stigma and fear
The news comes as Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death on Tuesday (local time), the second death outside of mainland China.
A 39-year-old man who had been suffering from an underlying illness died after visiting China’s Wuhan city in January.
During a technical briefing on early Wednesday, WHO official Oliver Morgan said there have been 27 cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus across nine countries.
“This has been a very fast-moving event,” he said.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated the body’s advice was not to impose travel or trade restrictions on China, saying such measures could cause “fear and stigma”.
While people were right to be concerned, there was “no reason for panic and fear”, he said.
Global airlines, including in Australia, have suspended or scaled back direct flights to China’s major cities.
On Saturday, Qantas announced it would suspend flights to mainland China from February 9 until March 29.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced that Australia had upgraded its travel advice to include all of mainland China to level four — “do not travel”.
A total of 42 nations have officially reported trade or travel measures due to the spread of the coronavirus, but Dr Ghebreyesus said they should be short in duration, proportionate and reconsidered regularly.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Tuesday (local time) that it would cut around 30 per cent of its capacity over the next two months, including around 90 per cent of its flights to mainland China.
Meanwhile, China said it would welcome assistance from the United States to fight the coronavirus outbreak, a day after it accused Washington of scaremongering.
Chen Xu, China’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, said the country had adopted “forceful measures” to halt the spread of coronavirus and told countries not to overreact.
Wuhan city and Hubei province are still regarded as the epicentre of the coronavirus and a priority for containment.
WHO officials said 684 people had recovered after contracting the virus, but warned that numbers and percentages may change over time.
The animal source of the virus has not yet been identified.
There are at least 176 cases in 24 other countries and regions, outside China, the WHO said.
Thailand has the highest number of infections outside China, with 25 cases, while Singapore has 24 cases.
Chinese-ruled Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, asked casino operators to close for two weeks to help curb the virus.
Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong held a second day of strikes to press for complete closure of borders with the mainland China.
Japan began screening 3,700 passengers and crew aboard a cruise liner held in quarantine, while Hyundai Motor Co will suspend production in South Korea because the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the supply of parts.
More on the coronavirus outbreak: