More airports screening passengers amid China virus outbreak

More airports screening passengers amid China virus outbreak
People walk under a screen warning about a new coronavirus at Suseo Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures' potential for success is uncertain. The sign reads "Avoid contact with patients." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — More airports are beginning to screen passengers arriving from China amid growing concerns Friday over the outbreak of a new virus there that has already killed more than two dozen people and sickened hundreds.

The energy-rich Gulf Arab nation of Qatar, home to long-haul carrier Qatar Airways, said it had installed thermal scanners at its main hub, Hamad International Airport.

Kuwait announced similar measures late the night before at Kuwait International Airport, joining the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which on Thursday announced screenings for all passengers arriving on direct flights from China, including at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest.

Kuwait’s state-run news agency said isolation rooms had also been opened at Kuwait International Airport for passengers suspected to have the virus.

Elsewhere in the region, Bahrain said it was taking unspecified steps over the virus.

China has shut down Wuhan and other cities in the Hubei province, which is the center of the outbreak of the newly identified coronavirus.

A scattered number of cases have been confirmed in other countries, but their are fears that during the travel and festivities accompanying Lunar New Year starting this weekend the virus could spread more widely.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday pulled all non-emergency American personnel and their family out of the province, and issued a travel warning urging people not to visit Hubei.

In Pakistan the Civil Aviation Authority said Friday all passengers coming from neighboring China will be screened for the virus, and any suspected of being infected will be kept in isolation at designated hospitals.

Officials say the number of Chinese nationals travelling between Pakistan and China have seen a considerable increase in recent years because of Beijing’s billions of dollars investment in infrastructure development projects.

As many as 41 flights from China land at Pakistani airports every week.

In Afghanistan, which shares a border with both Pakistan and China, Health Ministry spokesman Nezamuddin Jalil said authorities are concerned about the virus but so far had no reports of any suspected cases and had not instituted any additional airport screening measures.

In Cairo, airport authorities launched a program to train airport staff and airline crews on handling passengers arriving from China who might be affected by the new virus. Lectures have been held and pamphlets with details about the symptoms are being handed out, added airport officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the measures.


Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan, Noha ElHennawy in Cairo and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.