Coronavirus stirs fears in China as restrictions, health warnings intensify

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Strict travel restrictions and safety concerns have left people in China worried about whether the coronavirus, which has killed 81 people and infected 2,700 others so far, could cause major disruptions.

Several users took to the platform to express their frustration about their travel plans to the region being disrupted by the virus.


Weibo user, 苏小槿_MsQ, who was planning an upcoming trip to Dubai, mentioned Dubai’s Emirates Airlines asking if she could get a refund for her flight ticket.

Another user, 甦醒Adline, said that she had a bad trip to Dubai because she had to return to Wuhan earlier than planned due to the outbreak.

The Chinese term 冠状病毒,

which translates to “Coronavirus” is currently trending on Sino Weibo, the microblogging website that is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The Arabian Gulf attracts a large number of visitors from China every year, with Dubai reporting that more than 3.6 million Chinese travelers passed through its airports in 2019 alone.

However, no recorded cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Middle East, despite it being a popular tourist destination for Chinese tourists.

Erin Loges, a school teacher in Hong Kong, said that families living in the city are concerned for their children’s safety.

“In Hong Kong people are really quick to worry about this type of thing because of SARS. Schools were closed for months and people just didn’t go out. It was terrible. So, people are worried it will be like that again,” she said.

One of the major concerns that Chinese residents have is that the outbreak is more severe than authorities say, said another Chinese resident who did not want to be named.

“People are just worried in general that [the virus] is completely uncontained and unregulated at this point and so it’s a dangerous situation to be in or go back to,” she said.

“Hospitals are running out of supplies. Groceries are running out of food. Roads have been blocked in some cases so people cannot leave their districts,” she added.

According to Loges, a shortage of masks at government clinics, shops, and even online stores has also caused some “fearmongering.”

On the other hand, one Chinese resident who has been living in Dubai for 10 years told Al Arabiya English that he was not worried about the virus spreading in the region.

“We are confident about the ability to control the virus and stop people’s fears,” the man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.

The coronavirus has not prevented his family members, who live in the southern part of China, from celebrating Chinese New Year’s.

“We are not worried about our families in China. We informed them to take the safety measures like washing their hands and wearing the mask. It is our tradition to visit out family, so we told them to reduce the timings of the visits to be safe,” he said.

Airport screenings

Airports across the region, including in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have begun screening all passengers arriving on flights from China as a precautionary measure.

“The staff at the [airport] clinics are inspecting all passengers arriving from China and measuring their vitals,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Tawfiq al-Rabiah said in a statement on Sunday.

Abu Dhabi International Airport also issued a warning and provided preventative tips to its travelers flying to Chinese cities.

“Abu Dhabi International Airport has started a screening process for passengers arriving from China in an effort to ensure the health and safety of all of our travelers,” the airport said on Twitter.

The lethal virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected people in the United States, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, as well as other Asian countries.

Several countries announced that they would provide return flights to their home countries for their citizens in Wuhan and other areas.

The World Health Organization has said that some of the ways people can protect themselves from the virus is by washing their hands, avoiding direct contact with people, wearing a disposable mask, and refraining from consuming live animals or fish.

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