The US government is rushing to evacuate Americans from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan as officials warned the deadly strain’s spread is picking up speed.
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 – of which there are said to be roughly 1,000 – last week to offer them a seat on the plane.
The State Department warned that the single flight will have ‘limited capacity’ to transport private US citizens along with consulate staff, and said ‘priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus’.
Upon arrival 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 death toll in China climbed to 81 on Monday as the Chinese government sent reinforcements into Wuhan, where the outbreak originated late last month.
The US government is rushing to evacuate some 1,000 Americans from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan as China’s death toll climbed to 81 on Monday and officials warned the deadly strain’s spread is picking up speed. Staff are seen at a subway station in Wuhan – which has been on lockdown for five days – on Monday
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 a charter flight scheduled for Tuesday. The State Department released the statement above on Saturday warning that there will not be enough seats on the flight to evacuate all American citizens
Countries evacuating nationals from China virus areas
United States – The US State Department said it will evacuate staff from its Wuhan consulate and a limited number of private American citizens on a single flight to San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday.
United Kingdom – Officials are working with international partners to find solutions to help British and other foreign nationals leave Wuhan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
France – French officials are planning to evacuate a few hundred of the 800 nationals living in the Wuhan Area. Evacuees will be quarantined for two days to avoid spreading the virus.
Spain – The Spanish government is working with China and the European Union to repatriate Spanish nationals from the Wuhan area, according to Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
Netherlands – The Dutch government is reportedly reviewing ways to evacuate 20 Dutch citizens from Wuhan.
Russia – Russian officials have been in talks with China about evacuating nationals from Wuhan and the Hubei province, according to the Russian embassy in China.
Japan – Japan is expected to arrange charter flights as early as Tuesday for any citizens who want to return from Wuhan. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said about 430 Japanese nationals have been confirmed to be in Hubei province.
Myanmar – The Myanmar government canceled a planned evacuation of 60 students from Mandalay who were studying in Wuhan. A spokesman for the Mandalay municipal government, told Reuters that a ‘final decision’ had been made to send the students back after 14 days, once the virus’ incubation period had passed.
A source familiar with the chartered evacuation flight told CNN that those who choose to evacuate will be forced to pay for their spot on the Boeing 767 jet, which carries around 230 people.
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 said Saturday. ‘CDC is aware and coordinating in the planning.’
Washington gained approval for the operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies.
The US also plans to temporarily shut its Wuhan consulate, officials said.
Some 57 million people across 15 Chinese cities – including Wuhan – are on lockdown as officials work to slow the virus’ rapid spread.
The coronavirus strain, known as 2019-nCov, is believed to have emerged from illegally-traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan, which sits about 700 miles south of the capital of Beijing in the Hubei province.
While preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes, Chinese health officials reported this week that some cases have been caused by human-to-human transmission increasing the risk of it spreading.
As of Monday morning, more than 2,800 cases have been reported in China, the majority of them in Hubei.
Another 47 have been reported across 13 other countries: Thailand (8), Taiwan (5), Singapore (4), France (3), Malaysia (4), Japan (4), South Korea (5), Vietnam (2), Nepal (1), Australia (5), Canada (2) and the US (5).
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.
As of Monday morning, there are seven confirmed cases and 64 suspected cases of coronavirus in the US and Canada
The US evacuation from Wuhan comes after a seventh coronavirus case was confirmed in North America on Monday morning.
The Ontario government announced that a second person had tested positive for the virus in Toronto – the wife of a man in his 50s who had been diagnosed on Saturday following a trip to China.
Three new cases were confirmed in the US over the weekend – two in California and one in Arizona.
US health officials say that both California patients, one in Orange County and the second in Los Angeles County, had recently returned from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan.
The Arizona case came out of Maricopa County, and no other information was immediately available on that patient.
The two other US cases were previously confirmed in Snohomish County, Washington, last Tuesday and Chicago, Illinois on Friday.
Cities across America are on high alert as 63 people in 22 states are suspected to have contracted the deadly strain.
On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted: ‘We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus. Very few cases reported in USA, but strongly on watch. We have offered China and President Xi any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!’
A second person in Canada has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Ontario government revealed on Monday. Travelers are seen wearing face masks at Toronto Pearson Airport
Three new cases of the deadly infection were confirmed in the US over the weekend as two patients tested positive in California and one in Arizona. Passengers are seen arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from Shanghai, China
As of Monday, the coronavirus has sickened more than 2,890 people in 14 countries and 81 people have died from the disease in China
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.
Public health entry screenings are currently taking place Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and San Francisco International Airport.
The screening begins with a survey to determine whether a traveler shows possible coronavirus symptoms and whether they visited the meat or seafood markets in Wuhan that have been tied to the outbreak.
If they appear to have any symptoms associated with coronavirus, travelers are taken to on-site triage for further examination and a temperature check.
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.
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. Seventeen people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 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