UAE authorities on standby for China coronavirus

The outbreak is thought to have spread from Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province

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UAE authorities are on standby to deal with any potential cases of a respiratory infection reported in China.

The outbreak, understood to be a strain of the coronavirus, first appeared in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province, in December.

Since then, the infection has been identified in cities in the country, including the capital Beijing and Shenzhen.

Health officials now fear it could spread globally, with several cases already confirmed in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.

On Monday, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said it was closely following updates on the virus.

It said authorities at all ports of entry were “on standby”, with the necessary monitoring measures in place to project against any health pandemic. No cases had been reported in the country so far.

“The ministry reassures the public that the outbreak does not pose any risk to the UAE’s public health,” a statement said.

“[It] has taken all precautionary measures in cooperation with its strategic partners and is ready to deal with any travel-related coronavirus cases. All ports are on standby.”

In China, total known infections of the coronavirus are now believed to have exceeded 200 people resulting in three deaths.

The outbreak has drawn parallels with the Sars virus - also a strain of coronavirus - that killed more than 700 people in the early 2000s.

Experts believe that an animal is most likely the primary source of the outbreak, but scientists are unsure how it has spread.

Signs of the infection can include shortness of breath, coughing and a fever.

Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo in Japan have begun screening air passengers from Wuhan, with US authorities also announcing similar measures in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York last week.