Fears of China’s Coronavirus Prompt Australia to Screen Flights

Worries that the outbreak could worsen and hit the Chinese economy sent financial markets down across Asia on Tuesday. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, weakened in value against the American dollar. Stock markets in Europe also opened generally lower.

On Monday, China’s health commission said it would respond with measures intended to manage outbreaks of the most virulent diseases, including mandatory reporting of cases, and classified the virus as a class B infectious disease — a category that includes diseases such as SARS.

The authorities in Wuhan will begin barring group tours from traveling outside of the city and carry out checks of vehicles to search for live animals, state media reported on Monday. The city has also installed infrared thermometers at airports, and bus and train stations.

The potential for the disease to spread across more countries has prompted health authorities to step up checks at their borders.

In Australia, border security and biosecurity staff will meet and screen passengers from three direct flights from Wuhan to Sydney, Brendan Murphy, the government’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday.

Professor Murphy warned, however, that such measures were not foolproof. Some people who are carrying the virus might not show symptoms, he added.

“You cannot absolutely prevent entry into the country of a disease like this,” he said.

Australia is also considering expanding the screening to cover more of the 160 flights that come from China each week.

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