- The three cases are all travellers from Wuhan, with authorities in the island nation expecting to see more imported cases
- The new cases in Japan and Korea involve men who recently travelled to the Chinese city, the epicentre of the outbreak
Singapore reported two more cases of the China coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the city state to three, while South Korea and Japan have now each confirmed two infections.
The Lion City currently has 28 suspected cases, two of which are people who have not travelled to China. There were 13 other suspected cases that have been ruled out.
The novel coronavirus has so far infected almost 900 people worldwide and killed 26, with all reported fatalities in China.
Singapore's Ministry of Health announced its first case on Thursday, a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore on January 20 with nine travelling companions. Among them was his 37-year-old son, who is the third confirmed case.
The second case is a 53-year-old woman, also from Wuhan, who arrived in Singapore on January 21. She is currently warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and had stayed at J8 Hotel in Central Singapore and visited the Orchard area, Marina Bay Sands, and Gardens by the Bay before she sought medical attention.
Singapore expects to see more imported cases given the large number of those infected in China, and the high volume of travellers from China to the city state.
The country has heightened border controls, today extending its temperature checks from the airport to the Woodlands and Tuas land checkpoints between Singapore and Malaysia, as well as sea checkpoints, including ferry and cruise terminals and the Jurong Port.
Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital in Singapore who worked on the country's Sars outbreak, said it was a good sign that no patients outside of China had yet triggered further human-to-human transmission.
The health ministry also said all public hospitals in Singapore were equipped to deal with the novel coronavirus.
Dr Paul Tambyah, who heads the Asia-Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said Singapore was definitely better equipped now than during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak. "Personally, I think this is going to be like the H1N1 influenza with thousands of infections but hopefully the vast majority will be mild," he said.
Tambyah added that indications from the Chinese public health authorities were that most of those who died from the virus were older with underlying medical problems, so there was a need to make sure the elderly were well protected and taken care of.
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"Hopefully, with a concerted global public health effort, the virus will be brought under control even faster than Sars," he said. "Remember that Sars disappeared from the globe within four months of its explosive spread and apart from a few sporadic cases in 2004, a year after the global pandemic, it has not been heard of for 16 years."
Singapore is quarantining 16 people who came into close contact with the first case, who remained in the vicinity of Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa throughout his stay. They will be monitored for the development of symptoms for 14 days from their last exposure to the patient.
The authorities are trying to contact five more who came into close contact with the man. Another 24 people who came into close contact with him have since left Singapore, which will inform the relevant health authorities in their destination countries.
The health ministry is also tracing those who came into close contact with the 53-year-old woman, who had no fever during her Scoot flight that arrived in Singapore early this morning. She developed fever, cough and chills in the afternoon.
Kenneth Mak, designate director of medical services at the health ministry, said: "At this time in Singapore, there is no evidence of community spread. We believe that we've been able to isolate these cases early and our system of defending Singaporeans' health remains intact."
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Japan and South Korea confirmed their second cases of China's deadly coronavirus on Friday, as health authorities across Asia scrambled to control the spread of the outbreak.
Japanese health officials said a man in his 40s from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak, was in a stable condition at a hospital in Tokyo after testing positive for the virus.
The East Asian nation confirmed its first case last week after a man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, returned from a trip to Wuhan with a fever.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday instructed his cabinet to ensure adequate checks at the border and prepare more laboratory facilities to test for the potentially life-threatening virus.
South Korea's health ministry confirmed the country's second infection after a 55-year-old man who had been working in Wuhan returned home earlier this week with symptoms of the virus. The country confirmed its first case on Monday, after a Chinese resident tested positive.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun was due to convene an emergency meeting on Friday to coordinate the response of different ministries to the outbreak, according to the prime minister's office.
Vietnamese health officials late Thursday said a Chinese man and his father in Ho Chi Minh City had tested positive after the father travelled to Wuhan earlier this month, but both were in good condition.
Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son said authorities would continue to monitor for symptoms among travellers at airports in Nha Trang and Danang, where there were large numbers of Chinese arrivals.
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In Australia, where there have been no confirmed cases, health authorities in New South Wales on Friday said they were investigating four possible cases, later announcing that two had been cleared. Health officials in Queensland said they were looking into two potential infections. On Thursday, authorities in Sydney screened passengers arriving on a flight from Wuhan for symptoms of the virus.
Philippine media on Friday reported that close to 500 tourists who arrived in Kalibo, Aklan on January 23 would be returned to their point of origin, according to an aviation official.
The virus, which has been linked to a market in Wuhan that sold live animals including exotic wildlife, shares similarities to the Sars outbreak that killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003, although Chinese scientists say the new virus is weaker than that strain.
Amid fears the virus could spread as millions of people travel throughout Asia over the Lunar New Year holiday, the World Health Organisation on Thursday said the outbreak did not yet constitute a global health emergency.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, although that could change.
As of Friday afternoon, China's National Health Commission had confirmed 875 cases of infection nationwide, with 26 deaths, including the first two to be reported from outside Hubei province.
China has placed eight cities in the province, including Wuhan, under effective quarantine, suspending incoming and outgoing flights, trains, buses and ferries.
Despite efforts to contain the spread, China's National Health Commission said cases had been confirmed in all but two of 31 provinces.
Additional reporting by Meaghan Tobin and Agence France-Presse
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