New China virus claims sixth victim as holiday travel stokes risk

New China virus claims sixth victim as holiday travel stokes risk
By Se Young Lee and Lusha Zhang

BEIJING (Reuters) – The toll from a new virus in China rose to six deaths and more than 300 cases on Tuesday as millions of Chinese prepared to travel for the Lunar New Year, heightening contagion risks.

Many in China scrambled to buy face masks to protect themselves from the previously unknown, flu-like coronavirus infection and airports around the world tightened screening.

The outbreak, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, also worried financial markets as investors recalled the economic damage from China’s Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002/2003 that it initially covered up.

The SARS coronavirus outbreak killed nearly 800 people then.

“We’ll stay at home during the holiday. I’m scared as I remember SARS very well,” said Zhang Xinyuan, who had been bound from Beijing for the Thai resort of Phuket before she and her husband decided to cancel their air tickets.

Authorities have confirmed more than 300 cases of the new coronavirus in China, mostly in Wuhan, a provincial capital and transportation hub, where it may have come from a seafood market.

Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing, and the viral infection can cause pneumonia.

Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang told Chinese state television on Tuesday six people had died in his city. The disease was spreading further around other parts of China, however, including five cases in the national capital Beijing.

Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected.

Abroad, Thailand has reported two cases and South Korea one, all involving Chinese from Wuhan. Japan and Taiwan also confirmed one case each, both nationals who had been to Wuhan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a meeting on Wednesday to consider whether the outbreak is an international public health emergency.


“Information about newly reported infections suggest there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission,” said WHO’s regional director for the western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai.

Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own, set up an epidemic response center. More than 1,000 beds were prepared in isolation wards in case the virus spreads further.

North Korea was to temporarily ban foreign tourists, who are mainly Chinese, a foreign tour operator said.

The scare stirred risk aversion on global markets, with Asia particularly hit.

Hong Kong, which suffered badly during the SARS outbreak, saw its index fall 2.8% <.HSI>. Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> lost 0.9% and Shanghai blue chips <.CSI300> 1.7%, with airlines under pressure.

In Europe, shares of luxury goods makers, which have large exposure to China, were among those declining the most.

China’s yuan fell almost 0.7% in offshore trading to 6.9126 per dollar <CNH=D3>. Onshore, it dipped to its lowest in over a week at 6.9094 <CNY=CFXS>.

Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source was probably animal. Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan’s seafood market.


“The outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in Wuhan is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region now that there is medical evidence of human-to-human transmission,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific Chief Economist for IHS Markit.

So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions but they may be discussed on Wednesday.. China’s National Health Commission is also scheduled to give an update at a press briefing at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Wednesday.

Airports in the United States, Australia and across Asia have begun extra screening for passengers from Wuhan.

In the city itself, officials have been using infrared thermometers to screen passengers at airports, railway stations and other passenger terminals since Jan. 14.

The Lunar New Year is a major holiday for Chinese, many of whom travel to join family or have a foreign holiday.

Long lines formed to buy face masks in cities. Some online vendors limited sales of masks and hand sanitizers as demand surged.

Shanghai city’s market regulator warned it would punish speculators hoarding masks or other products used for preventing infectious diseases, according to the Shanghai Observer web publication.

Chinese travel booking platforms from <TCOM.O> to Alibaba Group’s <BABA.N> Fliggy said they would offer free cancellations on bookings made for Wuhan, while South Korean budget airline T’way Air <091810.KS> postponed its launch of a new route to the city.

Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission’s team investigating the outbreak, sought to ease alarm, saying in footage shown by state television there was no danger of a repeat of the SARS epidemic so long as precautions were taken.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Se Young Lee, Sophie Yu, Lusha Zhang, Huizhong Wu and Judy Hua in Bejing, John Geddie in Singapore; Josh Smith in Seoul; Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Two powerful storms thrash U.S. as millions head to Thanksgiving celebrations

Two powerful storms thrash U.S. as millions head to Thanksgiving celebrations
(Reuters) – Two major winter storms thrashing the western two-thirds of the United States on Wednesday appear set to disrupt the travel plans of millions of Americans headed to Thanksgiving Day destinations on jam-packed highways and airplanes.

The first storm front was moving across the upper Midwest, where it was forecast to clobber parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota with almost a foot of snow (30 cm) and wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph), making travel difficult if not impossible, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

It also warned of possible winds of up to 60 mph (95 kph) and rainstorms across a wide swath of the central U.S. from western Texas up through Missouri and into Ohio on Wednesday, as millions will hit the roads and board airplanes for the holiday.

The treacherous weather jeopardized travel plans for some of the 55 million Americans expected to fly or drive at least 50 miles (80 km) from their homes for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, according to the American Automobile Association.

“It’s a real bummer,” said Ally Lytle, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, who will be unable to make 400-mile (645-km) road trip home to Jackson Hole after the storm swept through the area on Tuesday.

The storm had already closed highways across the region and canceled and delayed hundreds of flights in and out of Denver on Tuesday.

Wind gusts of more than 40 mph (65 kph) on the East Coast on Thursday may also ground the giant balloons featured during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the weather service said in an advisory.

“Look, I know this weather means people won’t get to see their families, might be stranded in airports, etc, and all of that is awful,” said Susan Arendt on Twitter. “But I’ll be really sad if the wind means no balloons in the Macy’s parade.”

The second storm was rapidly intensifying as it pushed toward Oregon and northern California, where damaging winds, coastal flooding and heavy mountain snows of up to 4 feet (120 cm) were forecast, the NWS said.

The front was also expected to dump heavy rain, threatening flash floods across southern California, from San Diego to Los Angeles, the weather service said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Christmas Travel: Winter Storm Warnings in Northeast brings White Christmas and slick travel

National Weather Service weather map for Friday, December 22nd

By Kami Klein

Christmas is the most traveled part of the year with an estimated 107.3 million travelers nationwide from December 23rd to January 1st according to the American Automobile Association. Weather conditions play a major role in getting your family where you want to be.  This Christmas weekend getting to Grandma’s house will have some challenges with a winter storm system blowing across the United States bringing a variety of weather conditions.

If you are headed anywhere in the Northeast be prepared for delays from snow and ice which will make road travel difficult and most likely cause some flight delays.  On the plus side it’s perfect weather for Santa’s sleigh!

Winter storm warnings have been posted for parts of upstate New York and northern New England.  For the rest of New England, northern Pennsylvania, New York State and much of lower Michigan, a winter weather advisory has been issued.  

Heavy rainfall and flooding in the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys will last into early Saturday while,low humidity and offshore winds will continue to result in elevated-to-critical fire weather conditions across southern California through at least Monday. Dry air continues to be dominant in California.  

In the Central states, lingering snow may occur from the upper Mississippi Valley into the Great Lakes. Rain and thunderstorms will be possible for the middle/lower Mississippi Valley to central Texas with some freezing drizzle/freezing rain that may occur in parts of Oklahoma.  

The West will see a new weather system arriving that will bring snow and gusty winds to the northern Rockies and Northwest which will make poor driving conditions in some areas.  Rain showers will be possible along the Interstate 5 corridor from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.  

Flight delays will be possible for the following airports for Pre-Christmas travel:  

Atlanta, Cincinnati, Boston, Memphis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston,  St. Louis.  Portland and Seattle. New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Denver will be most affected by weather delays on Saturday evening into Sunday.  Chicago O’Hare, Cleveland and Detroit  will be on the lookout for flight delays all day on Sunday (Christmas Eve)  

Be sure to stay tuned to your local weather stations for current weather conditions, be patient and have a safe and wonderful Christmas!  


Sources :



U.S. carriers see 3.5 percent bump in 2016 winter holiday flying

By Alana Wise

(Reuters) – More than 45 million passengers will take to the skies on U.S. airlines this holiday season, Airlines for America projected on Thursday, up 3.5 percent from holiday travel last year.

During the 21-day stretch from Dec. 16 through Jan. 5, between 1.8 million and 2.4 million passengers daily will fly globally aboard U.S. carriers, according to the Washington-based trade group.

“An improving economy and reduced airfares remain the driving force behind the growth seen in air travel,” Airlines for America Chief Economist John Heimlich said in a statement.

“As we saw over Thanksgiving, U.S. airlines are well positioned to handle the increase in passengers expected this holiday season,” he added.

U.S. carriers got a trial run at the upcoming travel rush during the 12 days of Thanksgiving travel, the trade group said.

During Thanksgiving travel, airlines had a completion factor of 99.4 percent, a percentage of flights an airline completes without cancellation, and an on-time arrival rate of 84.5 percent, the industry body said.

Airlines for America said it expects the most congested travel days to fall on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, while fewer travelers are expected on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

(Reporting by Alana Wise; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Alan Crosby)

Messy Weather Disrupting Holiday Travel Plans

Severe weather was impacting the holiday travel plans of many Americans on Thursday morning, and threatening to impact more.

The remnants of the storm system that produced Wednesday’s deadly tornado outbreak were moving across the southeastern United States on Thursday. The National Weather Service said the system had weakened considerably, but it was still capable of producing heavy rainfall and localized severe thunderstorms throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast. The storms were expected to be the worst in Alabama and Georgia, but rain was falling as far north as New Jersey.

According to flight monitoring website, 201 flights to or from United States destinations were cancelled as of 11:45 a.m. EST on Thursday morning. Another 1,720 were delayed. Both of those numbers had steadily risen throughout the morning.

A large percentage of the delays were the result of heavy storms at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic. FlightAware indicated 111 flights to or from the airport had been cancelled, and another 703 were delayed.

More Americans than ever before are expected to travel this Christmas season. AAA projects that 100.5 million Americans were expected to make a journey of at least 50 miles in the 12-day period that began Wednesday morning. More than 90 percent of people were expected to drive to their destinations, but 5.8 million were expected to fly. That’s an increase of .7 percent over last year, AAA reported.

Regardless of whether they were traveling or not, there’s a good chance Americans would experience record temperatures on Christmas. The National Climate Data Center reported that there have been 3,912 record daily high temperatures this month, and that trend was expected to continue Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Weather Channel reported temperatures in New York City reached 70 degrees early Christmas Eve morning, smashing the previous record of 63 degrees. The forecast was calling for a high of 64 degrees on Christmas, which would tie a 33-year-old record.

Still, some Western parts of the country were expected to see a White Christmas as Winter Storm Goliath arrived Thursday and continued to dump snow throughout Christmas and well into next week.

The National Weather Service had issued winter storm warnings in northern and central California, southeastern Oregon, northern Idaho, eastern Utah and western Colorado. The service had also issued winter weather advisories in parts of those states, as well as Washington, Arizona, Montana and Nevada. The service was also warning of the possibility of avalanches in Idaho, Utah and Colorado.

The Weather Channel reported that the storm could bring more than a foot of snow to higher elevations by Saturday night, though most of the affected areas are expected to see fewer than five inches. However, the channel’s meteorologists say the storm may intensify over the weekend, and early projections show that Goliath could dump up to a foot of snow over the Great Plains before next Tuesday.