Macau confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Macau confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Tourists visit the Ruins of St. Paul's in Macau
Tourists visit the Ruins of Saint Paul's in Macau, China Dec 17, 2019, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's return to China. (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee)

HONG KONG: Macau confirmed on Wednesday (Jan 22) its first case of pneumonia linked to an outbreak of a newly identified coronavirus and tightened temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city.

The patient is a 52-year-old businesswoman from Wuhan who reported to hospital on Tuesday, said Macau Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Ao Leong Lu, who vicechairs a committee set up to respond to the virus.

The woman took a high-speed train to the Chinese city of Zhuhai on Jan 19, then a shuttle bus to Macau.

She had dinner with two friends, then went to the hotel and spent a long time in casinos. She was in a stable condition in an isolation ward. Her two friends were also being monitored and were in isolation.

READ: Wuhan pneumonia outbreak: A timeline of how the new coronavirus spread

Speaking at a news conference in Macau, Ao and other officials said authorities were coordinating with six gaming enterprises to introduce temperature screening machines at all entrances into casinos.

A total of 405 guest entrances and 47 staff entrances have already been provided with portable screening devices and all casino staff had to wear surgical masks. All performers and staff at the events hosted across Macau will be screened.

Entry points into Macau will also have temperature checks and visitors will be asked to fill in a health declaration form. Bus stops, taxi stands and wet markets will be cleaned more frequently.

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The tourist-magnet casino industry in Macau, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, accounts for more than 80% of the revenue in the city of 600,000 people. Macau is a popular Lunar New Year destination for mainland Chinese.

The death toll from the new flu-like coronavirus in China rose to nine on Wednesday with 440 confirmed cases.

The virus, originating in Wuhan at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

The virus has also been detected in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan and the United States confirmed its first case on Tuesday.

READ: Wuhan virus compounds Hong Kong's economic woes

The virus has caused alarm in China and abroad because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

A prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed this week that the virus can be passed between people.

The coronavirus is transmitted via the respiratory tract and there "is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease", National Health Commission vice minister Li Bin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

READ: Wuhan virus: Infectious diseases centre Singapore's first line of defence

Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected in China. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The viral infection can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.

Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source was probably animal. Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan's seafood market.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

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Source: Agencies/aj

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