China quarantines 63 Aeroflot passengers after traveller from Iran becomes its first imported coronavirus case

Liu Zhen

Shanghai has quarantined dozens of flight passengers linked to China’s first imported coronavirus patient, who was diagnosed after arriving from Iran via Moscow, with the country on high alert to prevent transmissions from abroad.

On Thursday, 63 people in Shanghai who had close contact with a passenger on an Aeroflot flight who was diagnosed with Covid-19 – the disease caused by the virus – had been traced and sent to quarantine for observation, according to a spokesman for the Shanghai Health Commission.

The infected traveller, whose age, gender and nationality were not disclosed, arrived in China on Thursday last week and was diagnosed on Wednesday. Chinese health authorities were looking urgently for further people who had close contact with the patient en route.

According to the health authorities, the infected person caught Aeroflot Russian Airlines flight SU513 from Tehran Imam Khomeini airport on the evening of February 19, transferred at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport overnight, and arrived at Shanghai Pudong airport the following evening on Aeroflot flight SU206.

They stayed in a capsule hotel for 16 hours during the stopover in Moscow, and spent two nights in a Shanghai hotel, where they received an item from a delivery man.

Last Saturday, they caught an overnight sleeper train to Lanzhou, in northwestern China, then on Sunday spent the day at Lanzhou railway station before catching a train further north to Zhongwei. Health authorities said they had worn an N95 face mask during the rail journeys.

“The medical inspection of the plane showed no abnormality,” Liu Bo, deputy chief of Shanghai customs, told a press conference on Thursday.

How Iran’s coronavirus death toll came to be the highest behind only China

The infected person’s travel history has not been revealed, but they left Iran on the same day as Iran reported its first coronavirus cases, with two elderly people dying from the virus in the city of Qom.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has asked anyone who had contact with the infected person to report to local health authorities and enter quarantine.

Many Chinese cities and provinces have already subjected visitors from South Korea and Japan – where there are fast-growing numbers of cases – to compulsory 14-day quarantine on their arrival.

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Iran stopped direct flights from and to China in early February, but travel between them via other countries has continued.

Iran has reported 245 confirmed cases and 26 fatalities, the largest death toll outside China. It has become the centre of an outbreak across the Middle East, with at least five of its neighbours having identified cases imported from Iran.

How the coronavirus was transmitted in Iran has not been confirmed. Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki has said it was “nearly certain” the virus came to the country from China, and one of those to have died there was a merchant who regularly shuttled between the two countries.

The coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, central China, and has spread worldwide, infecting 78,497 people and killing 2,744. South Korea on Thursday reported 505 new cases, taking its total to 1,766. Italy had 447 cases and 12 deaths.

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