The U.S. government is working to evacuate American citizens by air from the epidemic-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan as soon as possible, according to people familiar with the effort.
The operation comes as the death toll from a newly identified coronavirus that originated in Wuhan climbs above 40 and the number of confirmed infections tops 1,300. Many of the cases are in and around the central Chinese city of 11 million people.
The fast spread of the disease in recent days across China and around the world, including two cases in the U.S., has raised fears of a deadly contagion.
Roughly 1,000 American citizens are thought to be in Wuhan, and the U.S. consulate there is reaching out to those it knows about to offer a seat on the plane, these people familiar with the matter said. The consulate is likewise planning a temporary closure.
The novel coronavirus has spread to more countries in the Asia Pacific region as China reported a surge in deaths and new cases due to the outbreak.
The virus has killed at least 41 people in China, with media reports citing chaotic scenes as hospitals in the city of Wuhan turned away people who were unwell.
Australia and Malaysia confirmed infections on Saturday, Japan reported a third case although the patient from China isn’t in serious condition, while the virus has also reached South Asia as Pakistan and Nepal reported cases.
U.S. health authorities said they are monitoring more than 60 people for potential illness, while France identified the first cases in Europe.
Duke Kunshan University, a joint U.S.-China institution, and New York University’s Shanghai campus have delayed the resumption of classes after a spring break until early February.
Duke postponed classes until 17 February and restricted access to the campus in China’s Jiangsu province. The university is also helping to pay international and Chinese students who want to return home.
NYU Shanghai will delay the start of the spring semester by one week, to 10 February, a university spokesman said.
In Hong Kong, the Standard Chartered Marathon scheduled 8 and 9 February involving 70,000 people “has to be canceled,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.
School holidays for non-tertiary students will be extended to 17 February. while flights and rail services to Wuhan are suspended indefinitely. City’s health authorities earlier said the confirmed number of cases rose from two to five. (Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg)