March 3, 2020 / 12:43 AM / a month ago

REFILE-UPDATE 4-China urges overseas Chinese to stay away as imported virus cases rise

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BEIJING, March 3 (Reuters) - Chinese authorities on Tuesday asked overseas Chinese to reconsider or minimise their travel plans as the coronavirus epidemic spreads across the world and prompts an uptick of imported cases arriving in the country.

Travellers from countries with severe coronavirus outbreaks who arrive in Guangdong province, an economic and export powerhouse in the south, must undergo a 14-day quarantine - state media reported on Tuesday.

The financial hub of Shanghai will also require all people, regardless of nationality, to remain in quarantine for 14 days if they have travelled to the city from a country with “relatively serious virus conditions”, an official said.

Dandong, the northern Chinese city which borders North Korea, said it would test all visitors who arrived in the city from Feb. 12. Those who arrived from Feb. 28 will be tested at designated hotels where they can undergo quarantine if infected.

“We are trying to distance ourselves from the virus, but what cannot be broken is the flesh and blood relationships between overseas Chinese and their families in their hometowns,” said the government of Qingtian county in the southeastern Zhejiang province.

It added that travelling was the easiest way for cross-infections to happen, describing staying home as the “best form of protection”.

“For the sake of your family’s health and safety, please strengthen your precautions, carefully decide on your travel plans and minimise mobility,” it said.

The number of new daily infections overseas now exceeded new cases in China, with Italy, South Korea and Iran focal points.

Mainland China had 125 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday, down from 202 cases a day earlier and the lowest since the authority started publishing nationwide data in January.

Excluding cases in Hubei province, where the outbreak first started, there were 11 new cases in mainland China on Monday.

Seven of the new cases were imported, involving Chinese nationals who had travelled from Italy to Qingtian county.

The seven people had close contact with a previously disclosed case and all eight worked together in a restaurant in Bergamo, a city in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the Qingtian government said in a statement on its WeChat account.

Last week, six of them took a flight from Milan to Shanghai, stopping over in Moscow, while the seventh flew via Germany to Shanghai. They tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday after arriving in Qingtian.

None of them had been to Hubei province or its capital Wuhan, the Qingtian government said.

China has said it will focus on preventing those infected with coronavirus from crossing borders, as other imported cases had arrived in the country last week.

China’s new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday was driven by a further decline in new confirmed cases in Wuhan, the city hit hardest by the pathogen in China.

New cases in Wuhan fell to 111 from 193 a day earlier, and accounted for almost all of the 114 new infections in central Hubei province on Monday.

Excluding Hubei, there were 11 new cases in mainland China on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,151.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,943 as of the end of Monday, up by 31 from the previous day. (Reporting by Ryan Woo and Pei Li; Additional reporting by Lusha Zhang, Brenda Goh, Gao Liangping and Winni Zhou Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Michael Perry)

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