US confirms second case of China coronavirus, UK clears 14 tested

Pedestrians wear surgical masks in London's China Town. Everyone tested in Britain for a deadly virus that has infected hundreds in China, and spread to the US, has been given the all clear. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

US confirms second case of China coronavirus, UK clears 14 tested

  • Second case detected in US, 50 other suspected cases under investigation
  • All 14 people who were tested for the coronavirus in the UK had visited Wuhan

WASHINGTON/LONDON: A woman in Chicago in her sixties was Friday confirmed as the second patient on US soil infected with a deadly new virus originating in China, health officials said, with 50 other suspected cases under investigation.
The contagion has so far claimed 26 lives in China, sickened hundreds and has spread across several Asian countries as well as the US.
“I’m pleased to report she is clinically doing well and is in stable condition,” said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health of the new patient.
Nancy Messonier, senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the agency had so far tested 63 samples from patients across 22 US states for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Eleven were found to be negative and two positive, and the CDC was working to make diagnosis kits more nationally available. At present the testing is occurring at the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Chicago patient had traveled to Wuhan in late December before returning to the US on January 13, Arwady said, a few days before health screenings began at major airports for travelers originating from the central Chinese city that is at the center of the outbreak.
She began experiencing symptoms and called her health care providers, and was later admitted to hospital and placed in isolation.
“She has not taken public transportation, have not attended any large gatherings and, she has not had extended close contact with anyone outside her home since returning from China,” added Arwady.
The US confirmed its first case of the infection earlier this week, a man in his thirties from Washington state who had also traveled to Wuhan recently and also reported himself to authorities after developing mild symptoms.
Neither of the cases were detected by the airport screenings that began on January 17, said CDC official Martin Cetron, and both patients had no symptoms or fever when they first arrived in the US.
China has placed a travel ban across a vast region encompassing 13 cities and more than 40 million people, and the US was now “reevaluating” its approach of carrying out airport screenings, added Cetron.
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Meanwhile, everyone tested in Britain for a deadly virus that has infected hundreds in China has been given the all-clear, a top doctor said Friday after an emergency government meeting.
All 14 people who were tested for the coronavirus had visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak which has killed 26 people in China and spread to other parts of Asia and the United States.
Four of the five patients tested in Scotland were Chinese nationals, officials said, without disclosing the nationality of the others.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said attempts were being made to trace everyone who had arrived in Britain from Wuhan in the past two weeks.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he told the BBC.
Representatives of the ministries of transport, home affairs, foreign affairs, education, health and devolved nations attended a special COBRA meeting on Friday, the government said.
“We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage,” Whitty said.


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.