February 1, 2020 / 1:39 PM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-Vietnam bans all flights to and from China over coronavirus

(Adds Taiwan foreign ministry statement)

HANOI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Vietnam declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus epidemic originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Saturday and said it would halt all flights to and from China.

The government said it would also stop issuing visas for foreign visitors who had been in China in the past two weeks.

All permits granted for flights between Vietnam and China, including Hong Kong and Macau as well as self-ruled Taiwan which China claims as its territory, have been revoked until further notice, the government said in a statement.

But Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a later statement that it had spoken to the Vietnamese government and had the ban on flights to the island lifted.

Taiwan's largest carrier, China Airlines, also said flights had returned to normal after it was forced to cancel a service to Hanoi on Saturday.

Taiwan is a major investor in Vietnam, investing some $32 billion in the past three decades.

Taiwan is also upset that Italy has cancelled flights by China Airlines between Taipei and Rome as part of Italy's ban on flights from China, though China Airlines will be allowed to carry back stranded passengers on Monday.

Jason Chiang, head of the Taiwan Foreign Ministry's Europe department, told reporters in Taipei that was because the World Health Organization, which follows Beijing's guidance and considers Taiwan part of China, had included the island in its warnings about the extent of the virus in China. Taiwan has only reported 10 cases of the virus, compared to almost 12,000 in China, including 259 deaths.

Budget carrier Vietjet Air and the national firm, Vietnam Airlines, earlier said they would suspend all flights to and from China from Feb. 1. (Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard in Taiwan; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Nick Macfie)

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