Tue, Feb 04, 2020 - Page 7 News List

US boosts screening for coronavirus

‘WORKING CLOSELY’:US citizens who have traveled in China within the past 14 days are to be rerouted to designated airports to undergo enhanced health screening

AP, WASHINGTON

A passenger wearing a protective mask exits the international arrival lounge at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

As the US steps up its response to a coronavirus outbreak, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has warned airline passengers that their flights might wind up rerouted if officials discover mid-flight that someone onboard has been in China in the past 14 days.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a “handful” of flights would be heading to China to bring Americans back home from Hubei Province, which is at the heart of the outbreak.

“The exact timing of those we’re still coordinating with the Chinese government,” Pompeo said at a news conference yesterday in Tashkent.

“We anticipate that they will happen in the next handful of days and we’ll return those American citizens,” he said.

“We may well end up bringing some citizens back from other countries as well. We’re working through the details on that,” Pompeo said.

He said the US might try to deliver some medical supplies to the region.

“We’re working closely and hand-in-hand with the Chinese government to try and resolve what is now this global epidemiological challenge, and so we’ll have more details exactly on when those flights will depart and when they return and how they’ll return to the United States before too long,” Pompeo said.

The DHS guidance on flights was included in a notice it released on Sunday as new travel restrictions officially went into effect for flights commencing after 5pm.

Under the new rules, US citizens who have traveled in China within the past 14 days would be rerouted to one of eight designated airports, where they would undergo enhanced health screening procedures.

They eight are: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Chicago O’Hare International Airport; San Francisco International Airport; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu; Los Angeles International Airport in California; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and Washington-Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

Starting yesterday, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport were to be added to the list.

US citizens who have been in Hubei Province within 14 days of their return are to be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. The outbreak originated in that province.

US citizens who have been in other areas of China within the past 14 days are to undergo “proactive entry health screening” and up to 14 days of “self-quarantine.”

Meanwhile, most non-US citizens who have traveled in China within the past 14 days are to be denied entry into the US, except for immediate family members of US citizens, permanent residents and flight crew.

“While the overall risk to the American public remains low, funneling all flights with passengers who have recently been in China is the most important and prudent step we can take at this time to decrease the strain on public health officials screening incoming travelers,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said.

“We realize this could provide added stress and prolong travel times for some individuals, however public health and security experts agree these measures are necessary to contain the virus and protect the American people,” Wolf said.

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