Patients in China with coronavirus began arriving at a new 1,000-bed hospital that crews rushed to build in less than two weeks as the death toll from the virus outbreak rose to 425 in China alone.
Chinese officials said Tuesday the number of cases in the country now stands at 20,438.
The World Health Organization says it expects the number of cases to grow as test results from thousands of pending cases come in.
The virus has been largely confined to China, although there are about 150 cases in 23 other countries. The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death due to the virus outside of China.
Chinese officials say more than 7,500 workers took part in building the new hospital in Wuhan, the city at the center of the epidemic. The workers began construction on January 25 and are expected to complete a second hospital in Wuhan within days.
Chinese authorities have tried to stop the spread by instituting bans on movement in certain regions and extending holidays to keep people away from schools and other large gatherings.
Criticism of travel restrictions
Other nations put in place restrictions on those traveling from China, including the United States, which drew criticism from China’s Foreign Ministry.
Spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the United States of spreading fear and not offering any substantial assistance in response to the outbreak.
She said Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic,” noting that the WHO has advised against travel restrictions.
The United States began mandatory 14-day quarantines Sunday for U.S. citizens who had been in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and entry bans for most non-U.S. citizens who traveled to China within the past two weeks.
U.S. citizens and their immediate families, along with permanent residents and flight crews traveling from China, are being flown to certain airports for extra screening.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said Monday the United States is already prepared to provide housing for up to 1,000 people who may need to be quarantined. He also said the United States is “always planning for eventualities and how we may be asked by civilian partners to assist.”
Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said the overall risk to Americans remains low. He added that the new rules could add stress and travel time for some passengers, but said, “Public health and security experts agree these measures are necessary to contain the virus and protect the American people.”
Trump: U.S. ‘shut down’ virus
President Donald Trump told Fox News that the United States has “shut down” the coronavirus coming in from China, even as officials in San Francisco reported a ninth confirmed U.S. case.
“We’ve offered China help but we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus,” Trump said. “So we’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday “a handful more flights” will be going to China to evacuate Americans from Hubei province. Speaking during a visit to Kazakhstan, Pompeo said the United States “might bring in some medical supplies” as well.
He said experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already are in Kazakhstan, which shares a long eastern border with China.
Barring foreign nationals
Along with the United States, New Zealand on Monday began barring foreign nationals arriving from mainland China.
Other countries to bar entry to Chinese nationals include Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines.
China’s acting ambassador to Israel apologized Sunday for comparing the border closures in Israel and elsewhere to restrictions placed on European Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Dai Yuming said China was one of the few nations that opened its borders to Jewish refugees during “the darkest days in human history.”
The embassy later issued a statement saying there was no intention to compare what is happening today to the Holocaust and apologized to anyone who “understood our message the wrong way.”
The outbreak has taken an economic toll on China, with stock markets closing down nearly 8% Monday.
The WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency last week.
The number of people who have died from the virus in China has now surpassed the total Chinese death toll from the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus outbreak that began in that country. That epidemic killed nearly 800 people around the world.