China counts 106 virus deaths as US, others move to evacuate

World stocks skid on growing virus fears

(AP) – China has reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to 106, as the United States and other governments prepared to evacuate their citizens from the city at the center of the outbreak.

Authorities reported 24 deaths in Hubei province, where the virus first was detected in December, and one in Beijing, the Chinese capital. More than 4,500 cases are confirmed.

The Chinese government has locked down whole cities in Hubei, isolating some 50 million people in a sweeping anti-disease effort.

The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the country. Japan, Mongolia, France and other governments also were preparing evacuations.

U.S. health officials changed their travel advice to American travelers planning to go to China.

Previously, the agency advised travelers to avoid any non-essential travel to Wuhan or other parts of Hubei province, the center of an international outbreak of a new viral illness. But that didn’t extend to the rest of China.

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its online advisory to tell travelers to avoid non-essential travel to any part of China.

The virus has sickened thousands of people mostly in China and caused dozens of deaths. The outbreak was first identified in the city of Wuhan in central China.

Countries with citizens in the central Chinese city that’s the epicenter of a viral outbreak are planning evacuations as the number of illnesses grow and China takes drastic measures to try to stop the spread of the virus.

China has cut transportation in several cities in Hubei province and is requiring some travelers to quarantine themselves. France, Japan and the United States are trying to arrange charter flights to help citizens leave Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began last month.

Authorities in China reported 2,744 people sickened and 81 killed by the new coronavirus. There are five confirmed cases of the virus in the United States. Two are in Southern California, and one each are in Washington state, Chicago and Arizona.

U.S. stocks tumbled following a sell-off in markets in Europe and Japan after China announced a sharp rise in cases of the deadly new virus, which threatens to crimp global economic growth. The major U.S. indexes gave up a significant amount of their gains for January on Monday and bond yields moved lower as investors headed for safer holdings. Gold prices rose. Airlines, resorts and other companies that rely on travel and tourism saw steep losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 325 points, or 1.1%, to 28,664. The S&P 500 index fell 37 points, or 1.1%, to 3,257. The Nasdaq fell 132 points, or 1.4%, to 9,182.

China has expanded sweeping efforts to contain the viral disease by postponing the end of this week’s Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading the virus.

Mongolia closed its border with China, while Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they would bar entry to visitors from the mainland province at the center of the outbreak.

Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide.

Increasingly drastic anti-disease efforts began with the suspension last week of transport links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That lockdown has expanded to a total of 17 cities in Hubei province with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.

With tens of millions of Chinese ordered to stay put and many others opting to avoid travel as the new coronavirus spreads, the travel sector around the globe is taking a heavy hit during the Lunar New Year, one of the biggest holiday seasons.

In Thailand, a favorite tropical destination for Lunar New Year travel, officials estimate potential lost revenue at 50 billion baht ($1.6 billion).

In Asia and much farther away, hotels, airlines, cruise operators and others who depend on big spending Chinese tourists are ruing their absence.

Tourism from China was already weakening even before the new virus forced much of the country into a standstill.

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