Nations Race To Evacuate Citizens As Corona Virus Continues Spreading

The rapid spread of a deadly virus across China caused growing global alarm yesterday, with nations racing to evacuate citizens trapped at the epicentre of the epidemic.
The coronavirus has now killed 81 people and infected more than 2,700 across China, with cases found in around a dozen countries as far away as France and the United States. Landlocked Mongolia, which is heavily dependent on trade with China, closed the border with its huge neighbour to cars. Schools and universities will be shut until March 2, while public gatherings involving sports and entertainment are also suspended, Vice Prime Minister Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan said.

Malaysia banned visitors from Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province. In Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the government was holding crisis talks with health experts to discuss the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Germany has advised its citizens to avoid the country. “Travellers should consider delaying or cancelling any unnecessary trips to China,” Maas said.

The US, France and Japan are among countries looking to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

A US-bound flight is scheduled to leave Wuhan on Tuesday with consular staff and some American citizens.

France plans to fly citizens out of the city in the middle of this week. Belgium, Bangladesh, India and Spain said they were working to repatriate their nationals, while Germany was considering the possibility. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus headed to Beijing for discussions with Chinese officials.

In a sign of the mounting official concern, Premier Li Keqiang visited ground-zero to oversee containment efforts in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the disease emerged late last month. The government has sealed off Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, effectively trapping tens of millions of people, including thousands of foreigners, in a bid to quarantine the virus that struck amid the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Communist government decided to extend the holiday, initially due to end on January 30, for three days to limit population flows and control the epidemic. Twenty-four new deaths were confirmed in Hubei yesterday, and the southern island province of Hainan reported its first fatality, bringing the nationwide toll to 81.

More than 700 new infections were confirmed, while the number of suspected cases doubled over 24 hours to nearly 6,000.

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