Wed | Feb 19, 2020

As virus spreads, anxiety rises in China and overseas

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2020 | 9:08 AM
Workers spray antiseptic solution on the arrival lobby amid rising public concerns over the possible spread of a new coronavirus at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. (Suh Myung-geon/Yonhap via AP)

WUHAN, China (AP) — Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new virus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Anxiety grew both at home and abroad after Chinese government expert Zhong Nanshan confirmed fears on state television late Monday that the new type of coronavirus can spread from human to human.

Six people have died and 291 have been infected in China, the National Health Commission said Tuesday.

The stock prices of some companies that sell masks rose Tuesday, but markets fell in much of Asia as investors worried about the potential impact on tourism and the economy.

Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, another coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travellers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan, the central city where the virus appears to have originated.

Guards at Wuhan’s airport pointed electronic thermometers at traveller.

Several online retailers were sold out of masks, which were being sold for more than 10 times their original price.

Users of the popular Weibo social media platform urged others to wash their hands and stay home.

Outside the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where many of the coronavirus patients are receiving care, several workers were dressed in full-body biohazard suits, supplemented by goggles, masks and plastic wrapped around their shoes.

While many wore masks in Wuhan, streets were far from deserted and people appeared to be carrying on with their regular activities.

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