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Airport screening 'not effective' in containing coronavirus outbreak

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A thermal scanner checks passengers at Manila’s international airport, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A thermal scanner checks passengers at Manila’s international airport, Philippines on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)   -  
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Screening passengers arriving at European airports for coronavirus is an ineffective way of containing the outbreak, an expert has told Euronews.

Pasi Penttinen said the incubation period for the virus is up to two weeks, meaning checks on incoming passengers would fail to detect it.

Penttinen, an expert in infectious diseases at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said quarantine was a safer method.

"The effectiveness of entry screening in European airports is likely to be very, very minimal," he told Euronews' Good Morning Europe.

"There will be several cases that pass through this system because of the long incubation period of this disease, even with those measures in place. So it's a very ineffective way of trying to contain this disease.

It comes as China said the death toll from the outbreak had reached 170 people and nearly 8,000 infections.

A flight arranged between the European Union and China departed Portugal en route to China to bring back 350 Europeans from the affected area.

New Zealand, Australia, India, Singapore and other countries are also trying to get out their citizens. Taiwan, the self-governing republic China considers its own territory, has also asked to be able to repatriate its passport holders from Wuhan, but it and the United Kingdom said they were awaiting approval from Beijing.

"Quarantine is one of the oldest tools in the communicable disease toolbox," added Penttinen.

"The effectiveness of quarantine measures depends on how clearly you can define the exposure to the virus.

"You have to remember the repatriated individuals from Wuhan are healthy, they are not sick people we're bringing in.

"They have had some level of exposure to this situation, it depends whether they have been in touch with sick people in Wuhan."

On Thursday, the World Health Organization is set to reconvene a special committee to decide whether coronavirus is a global health emergency.

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