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.


Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

Updated 44 min 34 sec ago

Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

  • The US Treasury Department stepped in last year to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan
  • Pompeo said the process could take longer

ADDIS ABABA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that it could take “months” to resolve a dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over a massive dam on the Nile River.
Tensions have been high in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.
The US Treasury Department stepped in last year to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan — another downstream country — after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reached out to US President Donald Trump, a close ally.
The latest round of talks concluded in Washington last week, and officials have said they want to reach a deal by the end of February.
But at a press conference Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Pompeo said the process could take longer.
“A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he said.
Ethiopia says the dam — which will be the largest hydropower plant in Africa — is crucial for its growing economy.
Egypt fears the project will disrupt the river that provides 90 percent of its drinking water.
Addisu Lashitew, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said he expected Pompeo “will be trying to make a final push” to reach a deal during his stay in Ethiopia.
“President Trump seeks to get the credit... as the dealmaker for resolving this issue,” Addisu said on a call with reporters last week.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said at the press conference Tuesday there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation.”
He did not elaborate, but major sticking points include the filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Egypt worries will dramatically curb water flow downstream.
Ethiopia is the last stop on Pompeo’s three-country Africa tour, the first by a US cabinet-level official to the continent in 19 months.
On Tuesday he met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part for pursuing an ambitious reform agenda upon taking office in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests.
Pompeo said the two men discussed the reforms and preparations for landmark elections planned for August 29.
“A free and credible vote will show there is no false choice between democracy and security, and it will ensure that everyone has a voice,” Pompeo said.
“I think the most impressive thing about these reforms is that they’re owned by the Ethiopian people,” he added.
Pompeo also met Tuesday with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.
On Wednesday he is expected to deliver a policy speech at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa before flying to Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo is attempting to lay out a positive vision for US cooperation with Africa, though analysts point out that the Trump administration’s record complicates that message.
The US is currently discussing military cuts in Africa.
Pompeo’s visit also comes just weeks after the US announced tightened visa rules targeting Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, as well as Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea.