China has flown two plane loads of its citizens back home to Hubei this weekend, the locked-down province at the centre of the deadly Coronavirus outbreak. They were greeted by authorities in full-body protective suits.
A Xiamen Airlines charter flight from Bangkok touched down in the provincial capital Wuhan, where the infection is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals.
Journalists waiting as a plane of Xiamen Airlines carrying Hubei residents arrived from the Thai capital Bangkok. (AFP)
Health authorities in white, full-body protective gear stood by the cabin door as the plane’s 73 passengers disembarked, smiling through face masks and waving to news photographers. A second Xiamen flight landed soon afterwards carrying Hubei residents from Kota Kinabalu, a popular coastal tourist destination in Malaysia.
China’s foreign ministry said earlier on Friday that the country would bring Wuhan residents back from overseas “as soon as possible” due to “the practical difficulties that Chinese citizens from Hubei, especially Wuhan, have faced overseas”.
China’s aviation agency had said there were 117 nationals from Hubei province in Bangkok and 100 in Kota Kinabalu who are “willing to take the chartered flights back to Wuhan as soon as possible”.
This was despite the fact that Wuhan and surrounding cities have been locked down by authorities for more than a week, effectively trapping more than 50 million people in their homes after a near-blanket transport ban.
Nearly all of the 259 people killed in the outbreak so far were in Hubei.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed in Wuhan. AFP reporters saw long queues, with some patients saying they lined up for two days to see a doctor.
The charter flights prompted a flurry of discussion on Chinese social media.
“These people probably don’t want to go back,” said one, while another questioned if residents should be returned to Hubei if they were not infected.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause disease in mammals and birds. In humans, the virus causes respiratory infections which are typically mild but in rare cases, can be lethal. In cows and pigs they may cause diarrhea, while in chickens, it can cause an upper respiratory disease.
Symptoms in human include:
The death toll from the new coronavirus now stands at 259 with the number of infections almost doubling in a day to more than 12,500.
Countries and territories that have confirmed cases include Spain, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, Russia, France, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Britain, Vietnam, Italy, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Finland and Sweden. Cases recorded in Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam, Japan, France and the USA involved patients who had not been to China. No deaths have been reported outside China.
All of China’s provinces and territories have now been touched by the outbreak. China has asked the European Union for help in purchasing urgent medical supplies from its member countries.
It is recommended that persons begin to practice the following
– wear protective masks in public
– wash hands more regularly than before with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
– only eat meat that you can confirm its origin, if not, eat tinned food
– stay at least 3 feet away while speaking with persons
– avoid shaking hands, kissing and hugging if possible
– if you feel throat discomfort, gargle with warm salt and water at least 3 times daily
A) hold a mouthful of diluted warm salt water
B) raise your head, let the salt water stay around your throat area for a few seconds
C) open your mouth slightly and exhale slowly, let air bubbling through the water in your throat and make a continuous “ha, ha” sound
D) spit out the salt water after a few seconds
E) repeat 3-5 times daily
Because viruses or bacteria lurk in the pharynx through the nasal passage, diluted salt water can kill them on the spot, thereby achieving the purpose of preventing infection. This method is simple, effective, easy to do but requires perseverance.
Be in the know…the life you save could be your own.
Contributed by HE Prof Colin O Jarret
Director of News and Current Affairs