By Omer Faruk Yildiz
ANKARA (AA) - Eight Chinese tourists in Johor state, Malaysia were quarantined at a hotel on suspicion of carrying the coronavirus, according to the country's deputy health minister.
Lee Boon Chye said the tourists traveled Monday with a 65-year-old Chinese, who was later diagnosed with the deadly virus. The group was held at the hotel as a caution, Chye said.
He said suspected patients would be held at the hotel for at least a week and health personnel would observe if they carried symptoms of the virus.
AirAsia and Malindo airlines announced they would temporarily halt all flights to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus.
The symptoms of the mystery virus resemble those of pneumonia, causing a massive outcry in China as that country prepares to hold New Year’s celebrations Saturday.
Chinese health officials confirmed Friday that 881 people have contracted the virus, CGTN news reported.
China issued a transport ban in 13 cities including Xianning, Xiaogan, Enshi and Zhijiang -- all located in the central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged. Wuhan shut down public transport to prevent further spread of the virus.
Many airlines have suspended their flights to Wuhan due to fear of transmitting the virus to other areas, while Beijing canceled large-scale activities ahead of the New Year.
The Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, falls Jan. 25. Celebrations often feature temple fairs, sports and exhibitions, usually held in Beijing during the holiday.
Travelers from China are being screened at several airports across the world in the wake of the outbreak. Turkey decided to scan all passengers traveling from China with thermal cameras at airports.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Chinese authorities believe a new coronavirus from the family that produced SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) may be the cause of the mysterious pneumonia cases.
During an epidemic of SARS in 2003, more than 700 people, mostly in Asia, lost their lives.
*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas