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Coronavirus Death Toll Rises To 259 As USA, Australia Announce China Travel Crackdown

The number of deaths from a coronavirus epidemic in China has risen by 46 to 259, the country's health authority says, as the United States and other nations announced new border curbs on foreigners who have been in China.

The central province of Hubei, the centre of the epidemic, is under a virtual quarantine with roads sealed off and public transport shut down. Elsewhere in China, authorities have placed restrictions on travel and business activity in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

In its latest figures, China's National Health Commission said there were 2102 new confirmed infections in China on Friday, bringing the cumulative total to 11,791. Around two dozen other countries have reported confirmed cases of the virus.

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Travel Limits On Foreign Passengers, Qantas To Suspend Flights To Mainland China

Foreign travellers who have left or passed through mainland China will be denied entry to Australia as officials try to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Amid growing international concern, Singapore and the United States announced measures on Friday to restrict entry to foreign nationals who have recently been in China.

Australia followed suit, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the country will deny entry to all foreign nationals travelling from mainland China from Saturday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is updated on the steps being taken to control the coronavirus at the National Incident Room of the Department of Health in Canberra last week. Image: AAP

"We're in fact operating with an abundance of caution in these circumstances," Morrison told reporters in Sydney. "So Australians can go about their daily lives with confidence."

However, the World Health Organisation, which this week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, reiterated global trade and travel restrictions were not needed.

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United States Announces Temporary Travel Ban Over Coronavirus Fears

The White House has declared a public health emergency over coronavirus, announcing foreigners who've been to China in the past two weeks will be denied entry into the country.

"We would want countries to focus on the mitigation efforts of identifying the possible importation of cases and responding to any domestic outbreak," China WHO representative Gauden Galea told Reuters on Saturday.

Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand said international travel bans had forced them to suspend their direct flights to China from February 9.

All three major US airlines said on Friday they would cancel flights to mainland China.

Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong. Image: AAP

Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium, illustrating concerns about a slowdown in economic activity in China and elsewhere.

Many nations have put on special charter flights to repatriate citizens from China.

More than 300 South Koreans arrived home on Saturday on a second charter flight from China and have been transported to a facility where they will be isolated for two weeks, the health ministry said. Seven people on the flight exhibited symptoms and were sent to hospital.

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Aussies In Wuhan Concerned About Christmas Island Evacuation Plan

Australians in Wuhan say they're unsure about the government's plan to evacuate them, with some questioning if they're better off staying put.

Indonesian officials said around 250 nationals being evacuated from Hubei will be quarantined on a military base on the remote Natuna Islands.

Britain said it was withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China.

Infections have jumped in two cities flanking Wuhan, raising concerns that new hot spots are emerging despite strict travel restrictions.

An official checks the temperature of a passenger in front of a ticket gate at Beijing international airport. Image: AAP

In one of them, Huanggang, authorities are requiring households to designate one individual who can leave the home, a local newspaper said. The city has a population of about 7.5 million.

The northern city of Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, suspended all schools and businesses until further notice, joining other cities across China in implementing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the pathogen.

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False Claims Coronavirus Hiding In Energy Drinks, Noodles, Slammed By Health Departments

Bizarre claims coronavirus is hiding inside food like noodles, rice and even energy drinks are spreading on Facebook, with health experts forced to emphatically slap down the harmful posts.

A senior leadership group tasked with handling the crisis promised to take action to prevent a big surge in the number of people travelling after the extended Lunar New Year holiday.

The team led by Premier Li Keqiang said they would coordinate with local governments to stagger the times when people are asked to go back to work.