Travelers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)
**FILE** Travelers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

A new coronavirus that has killed hundreds worldwide in the past month and sickened more than 20,000 others has many Americans on alert, as international health officials work to contain the disease.

The novel coronavirus, a rare respiratory infection causing shortness of breath, coughing and fever symptoms, was initially reported to be contracted by a woman in Shanghai visiting Germany for business matters. The woman reportedly returned to Shanghai with symptoms that were later confirmed to be the coronavirus on Sunday, Jan. 26.

The airborne infection has spread rapidly throughout various parts of China and other countries. With the number of confirmed cases on the rise, U.S. authorities are implementing stricter safety measures.

President Trump assembled a coronavirus task force, which issued strict bans on travel to and from China. The new restrictions pose a challenge for American citizens currently delayed in the return back to their regular lives. Annually, 60,000 to 65,000 people travel from Wuhan, China — which has been on lockdown since the initial outbreak — to the United States, potentially leaving a large number of people vulnerable to contact with the virus.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “WHO doesn’t recommend, and actually opposes, any restrictions for travel and trade or other measures against China.”

Nevertheless, Trump signed a presidential proclamation to temporarily suspend entry into the United States of any foreign nationals found to pose a risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus stateside.

Non-U.S. citizens are banned from entering the country, while American citizens returning from the infected territories will be quarantined until cleared by selected health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Currently, the risk to the American public is low,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The CDC has begun targeting airports, with 193 individuals currently being held in quarantine while authorities monitor their symptoms.

However, businesses trading with China has already taken a few steps amid the health scare, as various business entities have already either cut ties or delayed trading partnerships with Chinese distributors under the threat of the coronavirus spreading.

The consequential cut in business with China could ultimately translate into an increase of factory and production jobs for United States citizens, a revelation not lost on U.S. officials.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross views the threatening health issue in China as “an economic win for the U.S.”

“I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America,” he said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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