Experts urge more screening

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/11 22:53:41

Imported virus case from US sounds alarm

International passengers line up at a distance of 1 meter between each other when handing in the health declaration cards at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Sunday. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

Beijing reported six imported COVID-19 cases, including the first from the US, on Wednesday, which prompted experts and residents to urge stricter screening and management of people arriving from the US as the country seems lax in epidemic control and management.  

Beijing has reported 20 imported cases and the country 79 as of Wednesday. The authorities did not release details about the six new cases, five of which were from Italy and the other from the US. 

However, analysts said that the US' limited number of reported cases possibly resulted from a lack of tests rather than reflecting the real situation. 

South Korea and the US reported the first infection on the same day, but the former had tested 189,000 while the latter fewer than 2,000 as of Monday, media reported Monday. 

All countries should be cautious of the US exporting cases as the country's response to the epidemic is quite slow and there might be a large number of unknown infections, which pose great danger to the world considering the high mobility of US people, said an anonymous Beijing-based public health expert. 

According to US government data, Americans made more than 83 million trips abroad in the first 10 months of 2019, of which 5 million were to Asia.

A white-collar worker in Beijing surnamed Zhou told the Global Times that the danger of imported cases from the US is even bigger than virus-stricken countries like South Korea or Italy. 

"We know the situation in hard-hit countries and will be careful not to come into contact with them. But some might be careless if they thought a traveler was from a place where the infection is not serious."

More than 118,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world with more than 37,000 outside China as of 11 am on Wednesday, according to media reports.

Facing a worsening global epidemic situation, Beijing authorities ordered all people entering the capital from overseas - no matter whether they're from epidemic-stricken areas or not - to undertake a 14-day quarantine after landing.

Those traveling to Beijing for short-term business purposes need to stay at designated hotels and take nucleic acid tests before being allowed to leave the hotels, according to a press conference on Wednesday.

Local communities also stepped up managing overseas returnees and foreign residents. 

The Beijing Public Security Bureau said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Wednesday that it has sent 38 officers who speak foreign languages to communities to help in promoting epidemic control information, residence registration and door-to-door health check and contact history investigation. 

It's not only Beijing. All international travel hubs globally should be alarmed at the danger of imported cases, the anonymous expert warned. 

Besides Beijing, imported COVID-19 cases were also found in other countries and regions such as a 49-year-old American female tourist who was confirmed to be infected in Costa Rica last week.

India also announced on Tuesday that most  of the confirmed cases in the country have a history of travelling to the US or the Middle East.

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