‘Guilt, remorse’: China’s virus apology
The Communist Party chief in the city at the centre of China's coronavirus outbreak says he feels a sense of "guilt" over not taking measures earlier to contain the virus.
"Right now I'm in a state of guilt, remorse and self-reproach," said Ma Guoqiang, the municipal Communist Party secretary for Wuhan.
"If strict control measures had been taken earlier, the result would have been better than now," he told an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
The outbreak that began in Wuhan, capital of China's central province of Hubei, has so far killed more than 200 people, all in China.
The virus has affected more than 9800 people worldwide, surpassing the total from the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.
Earlier on Friday Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang said the task of containing and preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the city remains "severe and complex".
Wuhan officials have been criticised online for withholding information about the infection until the end of last year, despite knowing about the new illness weeks earlier.
Wuhan and cities in surrounding Hubei province have been locked down since January 23, with blanket transport restrictions effectively trapping around 56 million people at home.
Ma said the restrictions should have been brought in at least 10 days earlier.
"I think if we had taken measures like this at the time, the epidemic may have been alleviated somewhat, and not got to the current situation," he said.
CHINA SLAMS US FOR TRAVEL WARNING
It comes as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines suspended all flights to and from China on Friday.
Beijing sharply criticised the United States for warning American citizens to avoid China and for urging those already there to leave due to the coronavirus health emergency.
"Certain US officials' words and actions are neither factual nor appropriate," China's foreign affairs ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
"Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed to go in the opposite way. Certainly not a gesture of goodwill."
VIRUS SPREAD TO THE UK
Two people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United Kingdom - Britain's first cases since the deadly outbreak began in China last month.
The two patients are related and were staying at a hotel in Yorkshire when they fell ill, according to local news reports.
"We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus," the Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, said in a statement on Friday morning (UK ime).
Mr Whitty added the patients were receiving specialist care, including "tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus".
"We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place," he said.
The AFP news agency understands the pair had recently travelled to China.
They are now believed to be at a hospital in Newcastle, in northeast England, though health officials declined to confirm their location, citing patient confidentiality.
Russia also reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Friday (Russian time).
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said two Chinese nationals in Russia's Siberian regions of Zabaykalye and Tyumen had tested positive for the virus.
The two men are now in isolation and haven't been in contact with anyone, the head of the country's public health agency, Anna Popova, said.
The infections emerged just one day after Russia closed its land border with China and suspended most train traffic between the countries.
ALMOST 10000 PEOPLE INFECTED
The WHO declared the SARS-like virus an international public health emergency on Friday.
The declaration means there will be a greater focus on a global response, with WHO fearful of what could happen if the virus reaches countries ill-prepared to cope with high infection rates.
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The epidemic has so far infected almost 10000 people and killed 213, according to China's National Health Commission.
A growing number of cases have been reported in at least 19 other countries, including Australia.
Several countries have now tightened travel restrictions to China, including the United States, Japan and Iran.
Singapore said it was suspending entry to travellers with a recent history of travel to China and suspending visas for Chinese passport holders. The ban, effective on Saturday, will also apply to those transiting Singapore, a major travel hub.
Italy's government decided to declare a state of emergency and stopped all air traffic with China after announcing its first cases, in two Chinese tourists.
The WHO has reported at least eight instances of human-to-human transmission in four countries: the United States, Germany, Japan and Vietnam. Thailand said on Friday it too had a case of human-to-human transmission.
Some airlines have stopped flying to mainland China, including Air France KLM SA, British Airways, Germany's Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic. Others have cut flights.
Several foreign governments evacuating citizens from Hubei are holding them in quarantine for the 14-day incubation period of the virus.
Australian citizens in China will likely be flown out of Wuhan on a Qantas passenger plane in the early hours of Monday morning.
The evacuees will be flown back to Darwin first before being transported on to Christmas Island in smaller aircraft, where they'll spend 14 days in quarantine.
- With wires