The Chinese partners of US citizens have been banned from a rescue flight to evacuate Americans from the city of Wuhan amid a deadly outbreak of coronavirus.
A charter flight is scheduled to fly from the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday.
The US consulate in Wuhan began reaching out to all Americans registered as living in the city last week to offer them a seat on the plane. There are roughly 1,000 Americans in the city.
Benjamin Wilson, who is from Louisiana but living in the epicenter of the disease with his Chinese wife and seven-year-old daughter, said he will not be taking the jet home as he ‘wouldn’t leave his wife’.
He told The Wall Street Journal: ‘I would consider sending my daughter, if that were an option. But I wouldn’t leave my wife. But if my wife and daughter could travel together, then absolutely yes.’
China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106, as the US government prepared to fly Americans out of the city at the center of the outbreak.
Priscilla Dickie, from Vermont, told the paper she had a seat on the flight home, along with her eight-year-old daughter, but was not sure how she would get to the airport. She said: ‘I have secured a seat, but the problem is transportation.’
One American citizen is said to be not boarding the flight for fear of ‘getting sick from people on the plane and potentially bringing it back to us’, according to the man’s daughter.
Other American citizens have taken to social media to describe their current living conditions in the city.
Former University of Cincinnati quarterback Jarred Evans said he expected to be on the evacuation flight. Scott Allis, originally from Pennsylvania had posted to Facebook on Sunday: ‘I have applied for a seat. I haven’t been informed that I will definitely have a place on this flight.’
And US citizen Dr. Diana Adama said Monday: ‘US citizens are finally being contacted, only so many can go. The rest of us staying here and are giving up seats to let children go with their mothers.’
US citizens Scott Allis and Dr. Diana Adama are both in Wuhan. A charter flight is scheduled to fly from the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday to evacuate Americans
Former University of Cincinnati quarterback Jarred Evans said he expected to be on the evacuation flight
Fully protected medical staff help a patient off the ambulance outside the hospital in Wuhan on Sunday
Workers in protective gear catch a giant salamander that was reported to have escaped from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province on Monday. The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them
There were 1,771 new cases confirmed on Monday, raising the national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 976 were in serious condition. China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106, as the U.S. government prepared to fly Americans out of the city at the center of the outbreak
A source familiar with the chartered evacuation flight told CNN that roughly 1,000 Americans live in Wuhan, and those who choose to leave will be forced to pay for their spot on the Boeing 767 jet, which carries around 230 people.
The State Department released a statement late on Saturday which read: ‘The Department of State is making arrangements to relocate its personnel stationed at the US Consulate General in Wuhan to the United States.
‘We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private US citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020 and proceeding directly to San Francisco.’
Since space is limited, the government says that ‘priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus.’
Once the flight arrives in in San Francisco, passengers are expected to be quarantined and screened for the virus which has sickened more than 2,800 people in at least 14 countries – with five confirmed cases in the US.
The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where authorities cut off most access January 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city. Japan, France, Mongolia and other governments also were preparing evacuations.
The State Department announced that it is evacuating US citizens from Wuhan on Tuesday
China’s increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.
China extended the Lunar New Year holiday, the country’s busiest travel season, by three days to Sunday to keep the public at home and reduce the risk infection will spread.
U.S. health officials expanded their recommendation for people to avoid non-essential travel to any part of China, rather than just Wuhan and other areas most affected by the outbreak. Mongolia closed its vast border with China, and Hong Kong and Malaysia are barring visitors from Hubei province. Chinese travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide.
There were 1,771 new cases confirmed on Monday, raising the national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 976 were in serious condition.
Also Tuesday, the Education Ministry canceled English-proficiency and other tests for students to apply to foreign universities were canceled. Public schools and universities have been ordered to postpone reopening following the Lunar New Year holiday until further notice.
Stock markets around the world were down sharply Monday as investors worried the outbreak could hurt the global economy.
More than 45 cases have been confirmed elsewhere in the world. Almost all involve Chinese tourists or people who visited Wuhan.
Sri Lanka confirmed its first case Monday. Infections also have been confirmed in the United States, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia.
As of Monday, there were five Americans diagnosed with the virus in Washington state, Chicago, Southern California and Arizona, all of whom had recently traveled to central China. Health officials said they had no evidence the virus was spreading in the United States and they believe the risk to Americans remains low.
China also reported eight cases in Hong Kong and five in Macao.
Medical staff attending to patients, in Wuhan. China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease
There were 1,771 new cases confirmed on Monday, raising the national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 976 were in serious condition. A medical worker checks drip of a patient in the intensive care unit of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University
The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people. Then, Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting slowly and failing to disclose information. The government has responded more aggressively to the latest outbreak.
Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week.
The virus is from the coronavirus family that includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses like SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The new virus causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them.
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market.
The US evacuation was first reported by the The Wall Street Journal, citing an official source.
It is understood medical personnel will be on the flight to care for anyone who may have been infected by the virus and prevent it from spreading.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is involved in the efforts to help Americans leave Wuhan. ‘Department of State has the lead for the safe and expedient ordered departure of all US citizens from Wuhan, China,’ CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told CNN.
‘CDC is aware and coordinating in the planning.’
Horrifying videos posted to social media show chaos at hospitals and doctors collapsing on the floor in Wuhan as Chinese authorities struggle to gain control of the epidemic.
Washington was given approval for the operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days. The US also plans to temporarily shut its Wuhan consulate, it said.
Surges in medical mask sales have been seen in areas where possible cases have been reported as people do what they can to avoid contracting the disease, which experts say may be spread as easily as the common cold.
Extra precautions are being taken at airports nationwide as all passengers inbound from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated in late December, are being funneled to five major hubs for screening.
The city, which has a population of around 11 million, has been under quarantine since Thursday as officials try to slow the spread of the virus traced back to a seafood market where wildlife was allegedly sold illegally.
Dramatic video showed people collapsing on sidewalks in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated
It appears that all of the patients currently awaiting test results after showing symptoms consistent with the virus – such as fever, cough and runny nose – had either visited Wuhan recently or were in contact with someone who visited the city.
Those patients are believed to have all been isolated either in hospitals or in their homes to reduce the risk of exposing others.
US health officials warned on Friday that the flu or other respiratory illnesses could complicate efforts to identify additional cases.
‘We’re really working to understand the full spectrum of the illness with this coronavirus,’ Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Messonnier, said at a briefing.
‘The problem with this time of year is it’s cold and flu season and there are lots of cold and respiratory infections circulating.’
Hotel workers wearing protective masks exercise in the lobby during a staff briefing about how to implement new regulations concerning the current situation in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on Monday
Staff members carry medical goods for Wuhan City of Hubei at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing
Visitors wear protective masks as they tour the grounds of the Temple of Heaven, which remained open during the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival holiday on Sunday in Beijing
The CDC has recommended that anyone with symptoms contact a health-care provider before seeking treatment so the appropriate precautionary measures can be put in place.
The agency is trying to expedite screenings by providing up tests to state health officials.
It currently takes the CDC about four to six hours to make a diagnosis once a sample arrives at its lab.
Tensions have been high at US airports as travelers worry about exposure to the virus in such a high-traffic, confined environment.
Last week, US officials began funneling all passengers arriving in the US from Wuhan on direct or connecting flights through five major airports to ensure that they are screened.
The State Department issued its highest travel warning for Wuhan on Thursday, advising Americans to not travel to the region.
The level 4 warning puts the city on par with countries such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
In a tweet on Friday, President Donald Trump thanked President Xi Jinping and China for its ‘transparency’ in fighting coronavirus.
‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’ Trump wrote.
Coronavirus: What we know so far
What is this virus?
The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Can it kill?
Yes. China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106
What are the symptoms?
Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.
How is it detected?
The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.
To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.
How did it start and spread?
The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.
What are countries doing to prevent the spread?
Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.
Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.
Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?
Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere
International concern has grown with the revelation that the virus spreads not just from animals to people, but between people, likely in a similar way to how colds spread.
Experts don’t yet know how quickly the disease can spread from person-to-person, but a World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said it is transmitted faster than previously thought.
‘We are now seeing second and third generation spread,’ Dr David Heymann, the chairperson of a WHO committee gathering data on the virus, said Thursday.
Third generation means that someone who became infected after handling animals at the market in Wuhan, China, could transmit the virus to someone else, who then passes it to a third person.
Heymann said the virus initially appeared to spread only by very close contact that would typically occur within a family, such as hugging, kissing or sharing eating utensils.
He said new evidence suggests more distant contact could spread the virus, such as if an infected person were to sneeze or cough near someone else’s face.
Heymann noted that there is no evidence indicated that the virus is airborne and could spread across a room.
On Thursday, the WHO declined to formally designate the new virus as a global health emergency after two days of deliberations.
Committee chairman Dr Didier Houssin said ‘now is not the time’ to declare an emergency based on the limited global spread of the virus and the isolation of deaths to China.
The WHO defines an emergency as an ‘extraordinary event’ that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.
Houssin added that the information they had received from Chinese authorities was too limited and imprecise for the committee to make a recommendation that day.
He said the committee remained divided — roughly 50/50 — over the course of the two-day meeting.
If WHO members had decided the other way, it would have been just the sixth time in history that it has happened.
The only other outbreaks to have been granted such a status include the 2009 Swine flu epidemic, the resurgence of Polio in 2014, the worldwide spread of Zika in 2016 and the two most recent Ebola outbreaks in 2014 and last year.
The WHO has advised governments to be prepared for the disease and ready to test anyone with symptoms who has traveled to affected regions.
Preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes or bats. But, this week, Chinese health officials reported that some cases have been caused by human-to-human transmission. Pictured: The coronavirus strain
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned that the country is facing a ‘grave situation’ as the coronavirus is ‘accelerating’.
‘Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus […] it is necessary to strengthen the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,’ Xi said following an emergency government meeting, according to official news agency Xinhua.
Some 56 million people are now subject to restrictions on their movement as authorities expand travel bans in central Hubei province, now affecting 18 cities.
Residents of Wuhan have expressed fear they are ‘trapped’ and will all be infected because of the government lockdown which has stopped anyone from leaving.