WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday declared the coronavirus a public health emergency and ordered all US citizens returning from the center of the outbreak in China to be quarantined for two weeks.
“This is a significant global situation and it continues to evolve,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Redfield, there are six cases confirmed in the US and 191 possible cases under investigation. The most recent U.S. confirmed case was not a traveler but a close personal contact.
“There are a lot of unknowns” compared to influenza viruses, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We still have a low risk to the American public but we want to keep it at a low risk.”
The declaration takes effect Sunday and will allow authorities to restrict travel and impose quarantine measures.
American citizens returning from outbreak epicenter of Hubei province in China will be forced into 14 days of mandatory quarantine, officials said at the White House.
Americans returning from the rest of mainland China will undergo additional screening at airports and potential self-administered quarantine.
Officials said most foreigners who have traveled in mainland China within the past 14 days will be barred from entering the U.S. Earlier, officials advised against all travel to China as the number of cases of the deadly new virus spiked more than tenfold in a week, including the highest death toll in a 24-hour period on Friday.
The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a troublesome sign of its spread that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency.
The death toll stood at 213, including 43 new fatalities, all in China.
The State Department’s level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, the highest grade of warning, told Americans in China to consider departing using commercial means.
“Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice,” the advisory said.
The US also barred foreign nationals who have been to China from entering the US.
With Post wires
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