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The Latest: WHO seeks $675M to fight new virus

BEIJING – The Latest on a virus outbreak that began in China (all times local):

11 p.m.

The director-general of the World Health Organization has asked for $675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the new virus that emerged in China.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that the sum is a lot, but says it is “much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now.”

Tedros says in the last 24 hours, the U.N. health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic.

Tedros also responded to published comments from John Mackenzie, a member of WHO’s coronavirus emergency committee, that China’s initial response to the outbreak was “reprehensible” and that cases were not rapidly reported. He said he would have expected higher numbers of cases if China had been hiding them.

“I don’t think it helps now,” Tedros said of speculation about any mistakes in the early stages of the outbreak. “Let’s take the action we can take today to prevent this outbreak from spreading all over the world.”

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10 p.m.

Two jets carrying Americans fleeing the virus zone in China have landed at an Air Force base in Northern California. Some will be quarantined at a hotel on the base for 14 days while others will go under quarantine at another military base.

Officials say guests and staff at the hotel on Travis Air Force Base in the city of Fairfield, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from San Francisco, were moved out ahead of the planes' arrival. The Americans were evacuated from the Chinese city Wuhan, which is at the center of the new virus outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to provide more information about the evacuated Americans later Wednesday.

Military officials say one of the planes is scheduled to leave Travis Air Force Base later Wednesday to take Americans to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, where those people will also quarantined for 14 days.

The Americans were evacuated a week after another jet with 195 American evacuees from China arrived at March Air Reserve base in Southern California and went under quarantine for 14 days.

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8 p.m.

The European aerospace giant Airbus has temporarily closed its plant in northern China that assembles A320 passenger jets, another business casualty of the disruptions caused by China’s battle against a new virus.

An Airbus statement gave no indication Wednesday of when the assembly facility in Tianjin might reopen. It said the company’s China operation is observing government requirements that employees work from home where possible.

It also said restrictions imposed on travel in China and internationally to slow the spread of the virus “are posing some logistical challenges” for the company and it is “monitoring any potential knock on effects to production and deliveries.”

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7:45 p.m.

Hong Kong's Hospital Authority says 4,600 medical staff, mainly nurses, didn't turn up for work Wednesday as part of a strike by a medical union. The group wants the government to completely seal the border with mainland China to halt cross-border travel and prevent the spread of a new virus.

The medical union, however, says about 7,000 people took part in the strike Wednesday.

Opposition lawmakers also slammed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's move Wednesday to quarantine all people arriving from the mainland for 14 days instead of shutting the remaining two land border checkpoints. They said it could lead to more people from the mainland coming to Hong Kong to seek treatment that would further burden the city's already taxed medical facilities.

Lam said the number of cases in Hong Kong has risen to 21, with three more local transmissions involving citizens with no travel history to the mainland and an unclear source of infection.

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7:30 p.m.

Italy has begun taking the temperatures of all arriving passengers at its airports to guard against the new virus.

The Health Ministry says the airports were being outfitted with special thermoscanners.

On Jan. 30, Italy barred all commercial flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Currently two Chinese tourists from Wuhan are being treated for the virus at Rome’s infectious disease hospital. After they took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, they were moved into intensive care and given help breathing. The couple, who are suffering from pneumonia, are undergoing experimental anti-viral treatment.

The Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital said Wednesday their condition is stable.

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7 p.m.

Chinese telecom company ZTE says it’s tightening hygiene control measures and canceling a news conference at a major mobile industry fair in Europe over virus worries.

ZTE said Wednesday it’s scrubbing the press launch for its new devices at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain, scheduled for Feb. 24-27.

The company said it’s still taking part in the show as planned, but will adopt prevention and control measures following the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China. They include making sure the exhibition stand is disinfected daily and “our booth presentation staff are all from countries outside China, and mainly from Europe.”

It will also make sure staff attending from China, including non-Chinese nationals, show no symptoms in the two weeks before they leave the country. Senior executives will quarantine themselves in Europe for at least two weeks before the show.

Meanwhile, South Korean tech giant LG said Tuesday it’s pulling out altogether.

“This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders,” the company said.

Show organizer GSMA said it “continues to monitor and assess the potential impact” of the virus on the Mobile World Congress, and that it has had “minimal impact on the event thus far.” Among measures it will adopt is a “no-handshake policy.”

The Mobile World Congress is the world’s biggest wireless industry trade show, and is attended by companies including Chinese tech giant Huawei, a major sponsor that still plans to have a presence.

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6 p.m.

Hong Kong's leader says all people entering the semi-autonomous territory from the mainland, including Hong Kong residents, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine because of the outbreak of a new virus.

Carrie Lam said the measure will take effect on Saturday to allow Hong Kong day travelers to make necessary arrangements. She also said two cruise terminals — including one where a cruise ship is currently under quarantine — will be shut down.

She said the government is looking for more quarantine facilities in addition to three current camps.

Lam said the government has been vigilant and isn't shying away from introducing stringent measures to stem the spread of the virus. Thousands of medical workers have gone on strike in the territory to demand that the border with the mainland be completely shut, but the city government has kept two crossings open, in part to allow food from the mainland to enter.

Lam said she remains optimistic that the city can overcome the epidemic but urged all citizens to “put aside our differences and get our act together.”

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5:45 p.m.

Russia and Uzbekistan have evacuated hundreds of people from China, most of them from the epicenter of a viral outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

All evacuees will be quarantined for 14 days.

In Russia, two military planes with a total of 144 people — Russians and nationals of Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia — landed in Tyumen on Wednesday. The Defense Ministry says none of the evacuees has shown signs of being infected with the virus.

Russia has reported two cases of coronavirus, both Chinese nationals who are hospitalized in two different regions of Siberia.

Uzbekistan evacuated 250 nationals from Beijing on Tuesday and another 84 from Wuhan on Wednesday.

Uzbekistan hasn't reported any cases of the new virus so far.

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2 p.m.

A Hong Kong official says about 3,600 people on board a cruise ship that was turned away from a Taiwanese port will be quarantined until they are checked for a new virus.

The World Dream ship, operated by Genting Cruise Lines, was refused entry at Kaohsiung port on Tuesday after three passengers on an earlier voyage were later diagnosed with the new coronavirus.

Port health official Leung Yiu Hong says 90% of current passengers are from Hong Kong and no one is from mainland China.

He says more than 30 crew members with symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat will undergo tests.

Leung said everyone will undergo temperature screening and must fill in a health declaration form.

They won't be allowed to leave until the tests are done. Leung said the length of the quarantine or the possibility of other steps will depend on the health tests.

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This item corrects the number of passengers and crew.

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1:45 p.m.

A charter flight carrying New Zealanders home from Wuhan has landed in Auckland.

On board are 190 passengers evacuated from the Chinese city at the center of the virus outbreak.

They include 98 New Zealand citizens or residents, 35 Australian citizens or residents, and others from Pacific nations including Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Samoa.

Most of the passengers will be taken by bus to a military facility where they will be held in quarantine for two weeks. The Australians are to be transferred directly onto another flight.

Also on board are eight British, one Dutch and 1 Uzbek.

There are no confirmed cases in New Zealand.

A plane from Thailand also flew back home 138 Thais home from Wuhan.

Officials in hazmat suits greeted the passengers at U-Tapao airport and took them to a navy compound where they will be quarantined for 14 days.

Health officials in Thailand have confirmed six more cases for a total of 25.