Thousands of foreigners are among millions of people stuck in the central Chinese city of Wuhan as the country struggles to get to grips with the spread of a SARS-like virus which has claimed 106 lives nationwide.
These are the plans so far by foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from the epicentre of the outbreak.
– ASIA PACIFIC –
Officials confirmed Tuesday they are beginning to evacuate Japanese nationals, starting with around 200 stranded inside Wuhan in Hubei province.
There are roughly 650 Japanese citizens in the area who have said they want to be evacuated, authorities said.
The foreign ministry said Tuesday it is working on a plan to transport home all Australian nationals, most of whom it said are dual nationals. Officials added they had received about 400 calls from Australians in China registering for evacuation.
Canberra does not have a consulate in Wuhan but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is negotiating with Chinese officials over the arrangements.
He said officials are talking to the United States and Britain about the plans and working with New Zealand on a possible joint evacuation effort.
Local media reported the Indian government will request clearance from Beijing to take more than 250 citizens out of Wuhan and that a Boeing 747 in Mumbai is on standby.
Jakarta said there are 234 Indonesians in China — roughly 100 in Wuhan and 143 in Hubei province. But the foreign ministry said Tuesday it has yet to decide on an evacuation plan.
Colombo said it is making arrangements to return 860 Sri Lankan students, of whom 32 are in Wuhan.
Seoul will send chartered planes to Wuhan this week, the foreign ministry said, to return hundreds of its citizens to Korea on Thursday and Friday.
Thailand’s premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Tuesday the country was waiting for authorisation from Chinese officials before evacuating people, but that aircraft and doctors were on standby.
Sixty-four Thais — 49 students and 15 workers or tourists — are inside China.
The foreign ministry said it is discussing a possible evacuation for an estimated 150 Filipinos in Wuhan and another 150 in other parts of Hubei, but there are no confirmed plans.
– NORTH AMERICA –
The Department of State said a chartered flight will leave Wuhan on Wednesday with 240 American citizens on board, including consular staff.
– EUROPE AND AFRICA –
The health minister confirmed French citizens will be evacuated without detailing how many. She said they would leave midweek.
Berlin has not confirmed any evacuation plan but said it is considering options for roughly 90 citizens reportedly in Wuhan.
About 100 people, mostly students in Wuhan, will be evacuated, according to local media.
Spanish officials are working with China and the European Union to take Spanish nationals out of the area, the foreign minister said.
Germany’s first confirmed coronavirus patient caught the disease from a Chinese colleague who visited Germany last week, officials said on Tuesday, in the first human-to-human transmission on European soil, according to an AFP tally.
The Chinese employee, a woman from Shanghai, “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23”, Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety, said at a press conference.
A 33-year-old German, with whom she had attended a meeting in Bavaria, tested positive for the virus on Monday evening.
Around 1,500 people who came to Britain from the Chinese epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in the past two weeks must put themselves in isolation, the UK health minister said Monday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said authorities “cannot be 100 per cent certain” that the virus cannot spread from a person who exhibits no flu-like symptoms.
“From today, we are therefore asking anyone in the UK who has returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days to self-isolate,” Hancock told a parliamentary hearing.
“Do not leave home until you have been given advice by a clinician.”
Hancock said health officials continued to trace people who have arrived in the UK from Wuhan.
“Having eliminated those who we know have since left the country, there are 1,460 people we are seeking to locate.”
Britain has not recorded any confirmed cases of the disease.
The Foreign Office said Monday it was “working to make an option available for British nationals to leave (Wuhan’s) Hubei province due to the heavy travel restrictions and increased difficulty of accessing consular or medical assistance.”
The Minister of State for Health, Adeleke Mamora, has explained why the deadly coronavirus is not yet a public health emergency.
Mamora who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, said the World Health Organisation is yet to declare the virus a public health emergency to avoid unnecessary panic.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) is monitoring this development all over. The WHO is yet to declare coronavirus disease as a public health emergency because the world health body does not want to create an undue panic,” he said.
The minister also noted that no case of the virus has been established in Nigeria or any other African country.
He explained that there are only some reported cases of the disease in some Asian and European countries so far.
When asked about efforts made by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the disease into the country through proper sensitization, Mamora asked Nigerians “to avoid crowded environment.”
“You need that crowded situation to have contact. If you are coughing, cover-up. And if someone is coughing also, you cover up too.
“The use of face mask is common particularly when you are at the lounge for international travelers. Also, reduce the hugging of people because you never know what they are carrying. Handwashing is also important as many times as you can, especially when you have touched certain areas,” he said.
Other efforts he advised Nigerians to put in place include avoiding contact with a victim, constantly using sanitizers and avoid handshake with people no matter how close.
When asked if he is worried that the coronavirus could find its way into the country, Mamora replied saying: “It’s a possibility, we have to be realistic. We have quite a number of Chinese workers at this point in time.
“If such people are returning from China their home country, you will need to follow up with their travel history that while they were on holiday, did they visit Wuhan? Even if they didn’t visit, did they have some symptoms?”
A patient in California’s Orange County was Saturday confirmed as the third person on US soil infected with the new deadly virus that originated in China, health officials said.
The infected person was a traveler from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak, the Orange County Health Care Agency said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the patient had tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus, it said.
The individual was in isolation in a local hospital and was in good condition.
“There is no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County. The current risk of local transmission remains low,” the health care agency said.
There were no details given on how the person arrived in the United States or their identity.
The two other US cases involve a woman in Chicago who had traveled to Wuhan in late December before returning to the US on January 13, and a man in his thirties from Washington state who had also traveled to the Chinese city recently, the CDC said.
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Japan will evacuate all its nationals from China’s quarantined city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a deadly virus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday.
“We have decided to send back all (Japanese citizens in Wuhan) to Japan if they wish so, by every means including a chartered flight,” Abe told reporters.
“We are coordinating with the Chinese government at various levels, and we will accelerate the process to realise a swift implementation” of the evacuation from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, Abe said.
Earlier, a foreign ministry official told AFP that 430 Japanese were in Hubei province.
The move comes as several other countries are arranging plans to evacuate their personnel and citizens.
The outbreak, which has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 across China, is believed to have originated in a live animal market in Wuhan.
China is one of Tokyo’s biggest trading partners and around 160 Japan-linked companies have offices in the region’s central city of Wuhan.
Japan’s health authorities confirmed the country’s third case on Saturday — all in patients that had visited Wuhan recently.
Paris, home to two of the three French people taken ill in China’s coronavirus outbreak, cancelled a Lunar New Year parade on Sunday as a “precaution”, the capital’s mayor Anne Hidalgo said.
“Yesterday, I met members of the Chinese community in Paris who themselves wished to cancel the procession” scheduled for Republique square, the mayor told reporters.
“The principle of precaution takes precedence,” she added.
On Friday, France’s health ministry said three people who had recently travelled to China were confirmed to have contracted the virus — the first cases in Europe.
One was a patient at a hospital in the southwestern city of Bordeaux and the other two in the capital. All three were “very well”, according to France’s director-general of health Jerome Salomon.
Health officials were tracking other people the three had been in contact with.
The Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, marks the beginning of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.
This year, the start to the Year of the Rat fell on Saturday, but celebrations in China were dramatically scaled down amid a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 56 and infected nearly 2,000.
Hidalgo did not specify whether other New Year’s celebrations planned for the coming days would also be called off, including the main, yearly procession in Paris’ so-called Asian quarter, set for next Sunday.
“We were informed of the cancellation of the festivities last night,” said Pierre Ducerf, a representative of the Franco-Chinese Association.
Celebrations planned for Bordeaux on Sunday were also cancelled.
The outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, an industrial and transport hub of 11 million people in China’s centre, spreading to several other countries including the United States.
A precautionary lockdown of Wuhan city has since been expanded to much of the rest of Hubei province.
France on Sunday put in place a medical team of several dozen experts at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to take charge of any arrivals with possible symptoms of infection with the contagious virus.
French carmaker PSA on Saturday said it would repatriate expat staff and their families — 38 people in total — from Wuhan.
They would be quarantined in the city of Changsha, 300 kilometres (180 miles) from Wuhan where the virus originated, before being allowed to return “to their countries of origin”, the company said in a statement.
The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
There is currently “little risk” from a deadly new virus sweeping parts of China at the venue for the first official alpine skiing test event for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, organisers said Saturday.
The virus, which has killed dozens and infected nearly 1,300, first emerged in central Wuhan city, but has since spread to at least 30 regions and provinces in China.
But Sarah Lewis, secretary-general of the international ski federation (FIS), talking in the Austrian resort of Kitzbuehel, said the current status at the Chinese resort of Yanqing was “low risk”.
Yanqing, northwest of Beijing, will host alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton at the 2022 Games.
FIS, working with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are to host a leg of the men’s World Cup circuit at the resort from February 12-16.
“We’re of course following Word Health Organisation instructions and (are) completely aligned with the IOC because the competitions, the FIS alpine ski World Cup in Yanqing, will be the first Beijing 2022 official test event,” Lewis said.
“So the IOC are very much involved, they have a full delegation there and their medical direction are liaising closely with the World Health Organisation.”
Yanqing, Lewis said, was a 13-hour drive from the area principally affected by the virus.
Any alterations in planning would be announced, Lewis added, “if there are any changes to the situation in a negative way”.
“There’s absolutely no intention to take any risks, and this is very much the position of the Chinese authorities and the IOC.”
China can “win the battle” against the virus epidemic that has infected over 1,200 people across the country, President Xi Jinping said Saturday, in his second public comments on the crisis.
“As long as we have steadfast confidence, work together, scientific prevention and cures, and precise policies, we will definitely be able to win the battle,” President Xi told a meeting of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, according to official news agency Xinhua.
The world’s most populous country scrambled to contain the disease that has already infected nearly 1,300 people, building a second field hospital to relieve overwhelmed medical facilities and closing more travel routes as the country marked the Lunar New Year holiday.
After more countries reported cases, Xi said at a Communist Party leadership meeting on the disease that China was “faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus” but that the country will “definitely be able to win the battle,” according to state media.
The country’s most important celebration has been all but cancelled for at least 56 million people as authorities expanded travel bans across central Hubei province to try and contain the spread of the virus.
In Wuhan, the epicentre of the emergency, 450 military medics were deployed to help treat patients in Hubei’s capital city, where a seafood and the live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak.
On Saturday, when they should have been celebrating the New Year, people waiting at one hospital in the city were angry and frustrated.
“It takes at least five hours to see a doctor,” one woman, who didn’t want to be named, told AFP.
One man in his 30s said some people had to queue for two days. Many people had brought their own chairs for the wait.
Wuhan authorities will race to build the second makeshift hospital within a fortnight, state media reported, adding 1,300 new beds.
They already started work Friday on a new field hospital, which state media said could be ready in just over a week.
The two hospitals would be similar in size to the temporary facility that was built to tackle SARS in Beijing in 2003 when 650 people died from the disease in the mainland and Hong Kong.
The army medics, who arrived on military aircraft late Friday, include doctors with experience combating SARS or Ebola and will be dispatched to hospitals that are reportedly short on beds due to a crush of infected patients and worried locals.
The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
The new virus has now infected people nationwide and in nearly a dozen other countries, with France saying three cases were confirmed there — the first known European infections.
‘Nobody can leave’
On the eastern outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, police manning a roadblock turned away a handful of vehicles trying to exit the city.
“Nobody can leave,” an officer told AFP.
But the police allowed some medical workers who had gone home for the holidays to re-enter the city to help at crowded hospitals.
“They need us to go there, otherwise they will be too exhausted,” said one of the women, pulling a suitcase.
Trapped residents were stocking up on masks, gloves and disinfectant while car traffic will be severely restricted from Sunday.
The city has a shortage of medical supplies including goggles and masks, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which added that the government has shipped 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves to Wuhan.
“Everyone is just trying to protect themselves,” said a man in a surgical mask at a busy pharmacy whose staff wore protective suits.
Foreign citizens were set to be evacuated from Wuhan within the next few days.
US Coffee chain Starbucks said it would shut all its stores in Hubei during the Lunar New Year festival for the “health safety” of staff and customers.
The government says most of the cases have been in Hubei and most of the deaths involved people who already suffered pre-existing health conditions.
Underscoring fears that the virus could spread further, overseas Chinese tour groups will be suspended from Monday while domestic trips have already been halted.
Beijing will suspend long-distance bus service entering and leaving the capital of 20 million people from Sunday due to “requirements of epidemic prevention and control,” the official People’s Daily newspaper reported.
The National Health Commission also ordered nationwide measures to detect and isolate people carrying the virus on planes, trains and buses across the country.
Xinhua said Saturday that temperature screening checkpoints have been set up in 387 railway stations across the country.
Meanwhile, tourists from Hubei in Haikou, capital of the island province of Hainan, were told by the city government they had to spend 14 days in a hotel for centralised medical observation and were forbidden to leave.
Hong Kong schools close
Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and a section of the Great Wall are among many attractions that have closed as a precaution. China’s film box-office earnings for Lunar New Year’s Eve on Friday were just one-tenth of last year as people shunned crowds.
Xi chaired a Communist Party leadership meeting which urged regional governments to make “the safety of the masses’ lives and their physical health a top priority”, state media said.
Xinhua said the Standing Committee agreed to set up a working group that would visit Hubei.
In Hong Kong, where five people have tested positive for the virus so far, city leader Carrie Lam declared the situation an “emergency” and schools, currently on holiday, will remain closed until February 17.
The World Health Organization on Thursday stopped short of declaring a global emergency, which would have prompted greater international cooperation, including possible trade and travel restrictions.
China’s capital will suspend buses that enter and exit the city boundary, state media reported on Saturday, as Chinese authorities scramble to contain a new SARS-like virus that has killed dozens in the country.
According to state-run People’s Daily, “all passenger transport by road” that crosses in and out of Beijing will be suspended starting Sunday, citing “requirements of epidemic prevention and control”.
A deadly viral outbreak in China has now killed 41 people, while the number of infected cases has soared to nearly 1,300, authorities said Saturday.
The 15 new deaths all took place in Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the deadly respiratory contagion first emerged, the Hubei Health Commission said.
At least 444 new cases of the virus have been found, raising the total number to 1,287, the National Health Commission said in a separate statement.
The disease has spread to 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.
Wuhan and 13 other cities in Hubei have been locked down in an unprecedented quarantine effort aimed at containing the deadly respiratory contagion, which has spread to several other countries.
The Hubei Health Commission also reported 180 new cases overall in the province, 77 of them in Wuhan but the bulk of the rest spread out across the locked-down smaller cities. There are now 729 cases in Hubei alone.
Several of those cities were reporting their first cases of the pathogen — 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) — the commission said.
The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
It also has struck at possibly the worst time for China, when hundreds of millions of people are travelling across the country or overseas to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s most important festival.