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Portuguese Government Alerts Travellers to China

Today the Portuguese Government alerted Portuguese travellers to China and nearby areas to understand the risks of a new coronavirus affecting the country and recommends that both tourists and residents register with their consulate.

In a statement by the Office for Foreign Affairs, they ask travellers, especially those travelling to China and neighbouring regions, to understand the evolution of the new virus and listen out for public announcements published on the Directorate-General for Health, the European Centre for Prevention and Control of Diseases and the World Health Organisation websites.

The Government also advises travellers “to register their travel in the Travel Registration application on the government website” and that residents should ensure that their consular registrations are up to date.

The information on the portal indicates that Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organisation have confirmed the existence of an outbreak of pneumonia, caused by a new coronavirus. The outbreak, they add, “was originally identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, located in central China, which is a strategic domestic and international transport centre.  Other affected areas include the province of Hubei, Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai with further occurrences confirmed outside of China in Thailand, Japan, the U.S.A, Taiwan and South Korea.”

The Macau authorities also announced today that they had detected their first case of the virus, while authorities in  Hong Kong say they have identified a potential risk but confirmation of the infection will take another day or two.

Although the government website includes warnings for other diseases in the Asian region, the Secretary of State for Communities states that, in general, “health conditions outside large cities and other more developed areas are sometimes rudimentary.”  It, therefore, advises Portuguese citizens against consuming street meals and NOT to drink tap water.

The number of confirmed cases has increased rapidly to 444, according to the deputy director of the National Health Commission of China while Nine people have died in the Hubei province with a further eight deaths announced today.

The case has fuelled fears of a potential epidemic, similar to atypical pneumonia, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which between 2002 and 2003 killed 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong.

The outbreak comes at a time when millions of Chinese are travelling for the Lunar New Year; the main holiday for Chinese families.  The Chinese Ministry of Transport says that approximately three billion domestic trips will take place over the next 40 days.  Authorities are currently taking measure to contain the disease by disinfecting ventilation systems at airports, stations and shopping centres.

Please note there is now an emergency number for the Portuguese Embassy in Beijing  +86 186 1208 7488.

Update

The World Health Organization (WHO) today decided to extend the Emergency Committee meeting until Thursday morning to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency with the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

The WHO Emergency Committee, made up of specialists from different countries, including Chinese epidemiologists met today at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, without reaching a consensus.  Therefore, they have decided to reconvene on Thursday.

The new coronavirus (virus family), causes viral pneumonia and is thought to have been transmitted via infected animals; although some believe that the virus can be passed on via person to person contact; this has yet to be verified.

Coronavirus presents itself with intense flu-like symptoms which include fever, pain, malaise and breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath.

Samantha Gannon

info at madeira-weekly.com

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