International business meeting in Singapore linked to three coronavirus cases

SEOUL/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - At least three Asian businessmen who attended a meeting of more than 100 international delegates at a Singapore hotel have contracted coronavirus, while others are showing symptoms, authorities said on Wednesday.

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The cases are further evidence the virus is now spreading through human-to-human contact outside China.

Malaysia on Tuesday said its first infected citizen - a 41-year-old man - had attended the meeting, which included delegations from China where the virus originated, in mid-January.

South Korea also reported two confirmed cases of its citizens who visited the same business conference in Singapore on Wednesday.

The cases are linked to a company business meeting involving 109 participants at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel on Jan 20-22, which included 94 overseas participants, Singapore’s health ministry said.

Of the Singapore attendees, four have also reported symptoms and been referred to its National Center for Infectious Diseases.

Authorities have not commented on the company or industry involved.

A spokesman for the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Gerald Kheng, said the hotel had been deep cleaned after it was first informed of the incident by Singapore’s health ministry on Tuesday but said it was not aware of any other cases among guests or staff.

Singapore - one of the worst hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - has reported 28 cases of coronavirus, including some local transmission cases.

The city-state says no evidence has emerged of widespread community spread but it announced new precautionary measures on Tuesday including halting group activities such as school assemblies.

Several firms in Singapore have suspended business and media events, including a big travel fair, but the Singapore Airshow is set to go ahead next week albeit on a smaller scale.

The World Health Organization has said cases of human-to-human transmission outside China are deeply concerning and could signal a much larger outbreak.

The death toll from the epidemic neared 500 on Wednesday.

Reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur and John Geddie in Singapore; Additional reporting by Joori Roh in Seoul; Editing by Angus MacSwan