Asia ramps up defenses against deadly outbreak; more countries clamp down on Chinese visitors

Asian nations have sealed borders and clamped down on Chinese visitors as they try to protect themselves from a deadly virus epidemic.

The outbreak has killed 170 people in China, infected over 7,700 more and sparked progressively more urgent precautions around the region.

Here are some key measures taken outside mainland China:

– Hong Kong –
Six of the territory’s 14 mainland crossings were sealed from Thursday as the city took steps to cut the number of people arriving.

Visitors from the ground-zero central Chinese province Hubei, as well as people who have visited the area, are banned from entering Hong Kong.

Sports centers and grounds, swimming pools, beaches, camp sites, musuems and other public sites were closed as a precaution.

– Japan –
If quarantine authorities judge that an arriving visitor has the virus, that person can be barred entry, the Japanese immigration service has said.

– Kazakhstan –
The Central Asian nation announced Wednesday it has stopped issuing visas to Chinese citizens and will cut all major transport links with China over the outbreak.

Cross-border buses were ordered to stop from Wednesday, followed by the suspension of passenger train services from Saturday.

Regular flights between the two countries will be suspended from February 3.

– Malaysia –
Visitors from Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province have been banned since Monday.

Authorities have temporarily stopped issuing visas for Chinese citizens from the hard-hit areas.

Malaysia’s home minister said Thursday that 14 Chinese nationals from Wuhan were barred from entering after they arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

– Mongolia –
Mongolia has closed its border with China to cars, temporarily shut schools and suspended all public events.

The measures announced Monday by the vast, landlocked country were some of the most drastic steps taken by any nation.

– Northern Mariana Islands –
The Pacific island states on Thursday banned all travellers from China to protect against the growing outbreak.

Chinese tourist traffic is a pillar of the economy in the US Pacific commonwealth.

– North Korea –
Plans to ban foreign tourists were announced on January 22 as the already isolated nation sought to shield itself against the virus.

Pyongyang has taken similar actions in the past — it closed its borders to foreign tourists for more than four months from October 2014 in a bid to keep out the Ebola virus, even though no cases had been reported in Asia.

– Papua New Guinea –
The impoverished nation shut air and seaports Wednesday to all foreign travellers coming from Asia.

The ministry of immigration also announced that Papua New Guinea’s only border — with Indonesian-controlled West Papua province — would be shut from Thursday.

Papua New Guinea residents returning from Asian countries will be held in quarantine for 14 days.

– The Philippines –
Visa-on-arrival privileges for Chinese were suspended Tuesday to slow down the entry of tourists from the country, while Filipinos were advised to avoid non-essential travel to China.

Charter flights between Wuhan, the Hubei city where the virus is suspected to have originated, and the Philippine island of resort of Boracay are suspended. Recently, health officials said they might expand this following the confirmation of the country’s first positive novel coronavirus case on Thursday, Jan. 30.

– Singapore –
Singapore announced Tuesday it will ban visitors who have travelled to Hubei as well as those with passports issued in the province.

– Sri Lanka –
Sri Lanka on Tuesday said Chinese tourists will now have to apply online for a visa in order to visit, instead of being able to get one on arrival.

– Taiwan –
Taiwan initially banned anyone from Wuhan and Hubei province travelling to the island, but has since widened its restrictions.

Earlier this week Taipei issued a near blanket ban on Chinese tourists, though business travel is still permitted.

However, the number of mainland tourists travelling to Taiwan has sharply decreased in recent years as part of Beijing’s ongoing push to put economic pressure on the self-ruled, democratic island.

– Vietnam –
Vietnam said it would temporarily bar granting visas for Chinese tourists from virus-hit areas except for emergencies.

Authorities also said visitors with high fever or who are suspected of being infected could be stopped from entering.

© Agence France-Presse