Italy declares state of emergency over #coronavirus: official

Singapore bars arrivals from mainland China over coronavirus fears

The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Friday to fast-track efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus strain after two cases were confirmed in Rome.

Italy had said Thursday it was stopping all flights to and from China following the news that a Chinese couple visiting Italy from Wuhan had tested positive for the virus.

The state of emergency, a fairly common procedure after natural disasters like earthquakes or floods, gives regional authorities special powers and cuts red tape. It will last six months, the government said.

An initial five million euros ($5.3 million) has been allocated to tackle the virus, according to Italian media.

Italy's civil aviation authority said all flights in the air before the suspension was declared were permitted to land, and passengers' temperatures checked.

The planes were also permitted to take off again with passengers who had been scheduled for the return leg.

Some 70 Italians still in Wuhan will likely be flown back on Monday, Italian media reported, before spending two weeks in quarantine.

Meanwhile, Singapore on Friday also announced a sweeping ban on arrivals and transit passengers from mainland China as authorities toughened measures to prevent the spread of a deadly virus.

The move was a dramatic expansion of earlier measures by Singapore that affected only arrivals from central Hubei province and came after the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus an international emergency.

"We are likely to see a sharper rise in the spread of the virus to Chinese cities beyond Hubei in the coming days... so the task force has decided to take additional measures now to restrict travel," Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a media briefing.

"All new visitors with recent travel history to China within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter into Singapore or to transit through Singapore," added Wong, who co-chairs the government task force leading the response to the virus.

"We will suspend the issuance of all forms of new visas to those holding (China) passports."

Singapore's international airport is one of the busiest in Asia.

Wong said, however, there are no plans to cancel the Singapore Airshow, one of the biggest aviation industry events in the world, scheduled from February 11-16.

Singapore has at least 13 confirmed infections of the virus, which has claimed the lives of 213 people in mainland China. All of the confirmed cases in Singapore are from Wuhan, capital of Hubei.

The latest reports from China confirmed that the mysterious SARS-like coronavirus epidemic which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has killed 213 people with over 9800 infected alredy and spread to at least 18 countries.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared it an international public health emergency , urging countries to do more to contain the killer virus.

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