The United States, Japan and other countries are sending planes to evacuate their citizens out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak that has now killed 106 people.
Japan is sending a chartered jet to Wuhan Tuesday to evacuate about 200 of the 650 Japanese nationals in the city. The United States is preparing to fly staff from its consulate in Wuhan, along with some American citizens, sometime this week. France and other nations have also announced plans to evacuate their citizens out of Wuhan.
Chinese health authorities announced an additional 25 deaths on Tuesday, including the first fatality reported in the capital city of Beijing. The total number of confirmed cases in China now stands at well over 4,500. Authorities have imposed a virtual quarantine on Wuhan, banning people from traveling in and out of the city, while several other cities in Hubei province are facing heavy restrictions on movement. Authorities in Wuhan are racing to complete two new field hospitals to treat the growing number of patients.
Cases have also been reported in Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. The World Health Organization says most of those are people who had a travel history in Wuhan, with several others having contact with someone who traveled there.
There have been no reported deaths linked to the virus outside of China.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered China any help needed to combat the deadly coronavirus. In a Monday tweet, Trump said, "We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus," adding, "We have offered China and President Xi (Jinping) any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!"
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the city of Wuhan on Monday to meet with health officials and examine the response to the outbreak.
The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, arrived Monday in Beijing, where he is expected to meet senior Chinese officials to discuss the outbreak. The agency said there is still a chance to get ahead of the virus if there is strong cooperation.
Separately, in an effort to stop the virus from spreading, Mongolia closed its vast border with China, while Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they would ban entry to visitors from Wuhan.
Global stock markets plunged Monday as investors feared the economic impact from the coronavirus.
The virus hit China just as it was beginning celebrations to mark the Lunar New Year, resulting in the canceling or the scaling back of festivities for tens of millions of Chinese.
Chinese officials took an extra step Sunday to extend the Lunar New Year holiday three extra days to cut down on group gatherings.
The head of the respiratory disease office at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nancy Messonnier, said Sunday there were five confirmed cases in the United States, and that all five people had direct contact with others in Wuhan.
The patients are isolated in hospitals as doctors and health officials try to learn more about the virus. The CDC says it is investigating about 100 suspected cases in 26 states.
Chinese National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday little is known about the virus. But doctors do know it has an incubation period that can range from one to 14 days. Ma said the virus is infectious during the incubation period, when no signs or symptoms of the disease are present.
President Xi Jinping said China is facing a "grave situation" and experts and other resources would be concentrated at specific hospitals to treat severe cases.
The virus is believed to have emerged late last year at a Wuhan seafood market illegally selling wildlife. Chinese authorities have imposed a temporary ban on the selling of wildlife.
Tourist destinations are closed and school closings have been extended in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Public transportation has been severely restricted. Many businesses have closed or asked employees to work from home.
The WHO recommends several steps to help protect people against acute respiratory infections. They include avoiding close contact with those already infected, frequent hand-washing and avoiding unprotected contact with farm animals and wild animals.
Source: Voice of America