The United States government won’t have enough seats on a rescue plane to evacuate all US citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan amid a deadly outbreak of coronavirus – and the jet won’t even arrive for two days.
The US consulate is reaching out to all Americans registered as living in Wuhan – considered to be the epicenter of the deadly outbreak – to offer them a seat on a charter flight scheduled for Tuesday.
More than 2,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed by several government worldwide as at least 56 people – most of them in China – have died.
Canada confirmed its first case Tuesday, as a man in his 50s was quarantined in Toronto, while two cases have been confirmed in the United States – one in Chicago and another in Snohomish County, Washington.
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 U.S. 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.’
The State Department announced that it is evacuating US citizens from Wuhan on Tuesday
As of Saturday evening, there are three confirmed cases and 64 suspected cases of coronavirus in the United States and Canada
People waiting for passengers wear masks at Pearson airport arrivals, shortly after Toronto Public Health received notification of Canada’s first presumptive confirmed case of coronavirus, in Toronto
The US evacuation was first reported by the The Wall Street Journal, citing an official source.
However, another source who spoke to CNN disputed the Journal’s claim that any available seats may be offered to non-US citizens and diplomats from other countries, saying that non-US citizens would only be allowed onboard if they are related or married to Americans.
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.’
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.
Meanwhile, closer to home, a Canadian hospital has confirmed the country’s first case of the deadly Chinese coronavirus, as officials in the United States said they had identified two confirmed cases and are monitoring dozens of other potential diagnoses.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto said it is ‘caring for a patient who has a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.’
Officials said the man is his 50s and recently flew from Wuhan, China to Guangzhou, China and then on to Toronto on January 23.
‘He really wasn’t in Toronto very long. He wasn’t feeling well. I think he was at home and the people that live with him are in self isolation,’ said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associated Chief Medical Officer.
Meanwhile, a suburban Chicago hospital is currently treating a 60-year-old woman who is a confirmed carrier of the virus after she returned from Wuhan.
The unidentified patient is currently in isolation at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
It came days after America’s first confirmed case – a Washington man in his 30s who lives in Snohomish County, who has been quarantined at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, outside of Seattle.
More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with the virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife
Travelers are seen above wearing masks at the arrival hall at Pearson airport in Toronto on Saturday
After the first presumptive case was announced, Toronto Mayor John Tory said health officials say the risk to the public is low
People wear masks at the arrival hall at the international terminal of Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Saturday
Cities across America are on high alert amid the escalating coronavirus crisis as 63 people in 22 states are suspected to have contracted the deadly strain.
The outbreak of the new virus originated in China, where it has infected more than 1,975 people and killed 56, and has spread worldwide.
Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases Saturday – four each – and Japan, its third. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe.
In Canada, while the case has been confirmed by a test in Toronto, officials said it has yet to complete separate testing by the federal government’s National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases in Winnipeg. The illness will officially be fully confirmed once it completes that testing.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said they are 95% sure it is the virus.
‘This is the first presumptive confirmed case,’ said Williams.
‘While we are convinced our tests do demonstrate positivity there is confirmation at the national medical laboratory in Winnipeg and once that is done is is a fully confirmed case.’
The US government is planning to evacuate 1,000 American citizens from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan. Photos from inside the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan show medical workers caring for critically-ill patients this week (above)
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto (above) said on Saturday that it is ‘caring for a patient who has a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.’ The man is now in stable condition in isolation. He was admitted to hospital a day after his flight to Toronto
The man is now in stable condition in isolation. He was admitted to hospital a day after his flight to Toronto.
Mayor John Tory said health officials say the risk to the public is low.
Two cases have been confirmed in the US but officials have said they expect that number to grow as dozens more people are being tested for the virus that’s sickened more than 1,975 and killed 56 in at least 12 countries.
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 US government has also ordered evacuations for some 1,000 citizens and diplomats in Wuhan.
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.
Tensions have been high at US airports as travelers worry about exposure to the virus in such a high-traffic, confined environment. Staff at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago are seen wearing face masks on Friday
Extra precautions are being taken at airports nationwide as all passengers inbound from Wuhan are being funneled to five major hubs – including Los Angeles International Airport (pictured Friday) for public health entry screenings
More passengers are seen wearing masks after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from Asian, China, on Friday
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.
CONFIRMED US CORONAVIRUS CASES
1. Man in Washington state
The first US coronavirus case was confirmed on Tuesday, January 21.
The patient – a Washington man in his 30s who lives in Snohomish County – has been quarantined at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, outside of Seattle.
The man had traveled by himself from Wuhan but did not visit any of the markets at the epicenter of the outbreak.
He reportedly had no symptoms upon arrival in the US on January 15, but after reading about the outbreak online and developing symptoms, he contacted his doctor.
The patient allegedly sought treatment on January 16 and was tested the following day.
He is said to be in stable condition. He is being treated in a bio-containment room by a few staff members and a robot to limit the spread of the virus.
The robot has a stethoscope attached to take the man’s vitals and a large screen so doctors can communicate with him, Dr George Diaz, chief of the infectious disease division at the Providence Regional Medical Center, told CNN.
‘The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him,’ Dr Diaz told the network.
Officials have also been monitoring more than a dozen people the man reportedly came into contact with in the five days between when he arrived back in the US and when he was diagnosed.
2. Woman in Chicago
The CDC confirmed the second US case on Friday – a 60-year-old woman in Chicago, Illinois, who had traveled to Wuhan in late December.
The woman, who has not been named, arrived at O’Hare International Airport on January 13 but did not begin experiencing symptoms until several days later.
Health officials say the woman appears to be ‘well’ and in stable condition.
She is in isolation, but it wasn’t revealed which hospital she is in.
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.’
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.
Two people from Minnesota and three people from Michigan are currently being tested.
The patients from Michigan have reportedly agreed to remain in isolation until their tests results return, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Also being monitored are two college students, one from Texas A&M University and another from Tennessee Tech University.
The Tennessee Department of Health said it decided to test the TTU student because he or she had ‘very mild symptoms’ and had a recent concerning travel history that met the criteria for testing.
No results have been confirmed and the student is being kept in isolation.
For the Texas student, Brazos County Health District officials said the male had ‘mild’ symptoms that resembled the coronavirus and had traveled to Wuhan recently.
Results of tests will be announced to the public if the patient tests positive for coronavirus.
Officials said the patient is currently being kept isolated at home and that it is safe for student to attend classes.
‘This patient did travel to the area of concern in China within the last 14 days and thankfully had mild upper respiratory symptoms, and he was improving,’ said Dr Eric Wilke with the Brazos County Health Department.
‘I believe the time the patient presented at the emergency department, it was more out of concern,’ said Dr Eric Wilke with the Brazos County Health Department.
Medical supply stores around the Brazos Valley, where Texas A&M is located, are reportedly experiencing a medical mask shortage after the possible case was reported.
Genese Smith, who works at MediCare Equipment in Bryan, just a few miles off campus, told KBTX that an influx of customers came to the store looking for masks on Thursday.
‘Within about 30 minutes of word getting out, we started getting phone calls asking if we have the masks, what kind of masks did we have, and how many we had available,’ Smith said. ‘Quite a few people started coming in, asking, and purchasing.’
Smith said the store typically stocks about 50 masks but has already ordered more.
Other stores in the area, including Texas A&M’s Health Services Department, are also awaiting new shipments of masks after their current stocks ran out, per KBTX.
In California, Los Angeles International Airport has been on high alert after a passenger who arrived on Wednesday was sent to hospital after he or she appeared to be ill.
The unnamed passenger arrived on an American Airlines flight from Mexico City around 7pm, CBS Los Angeles reported.
However, it remains unclear if the passenger is from Mexico City, or if they originated from another city.
Several people in the state, particularly in Alameda County and the Bay Area, are also being examined to see if they have the virus that resembles SARS.
On Friday, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services also reported that it is investigating a case.
The suspected patient arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on January 23 after having traveled to Wuhan but not to the seafood market to which many early cases have been linked, according to a news release.
Four other potential cases are also under investigation in New York state.
In Colorado, a patient with respiratory symptoms was placed in isolation at Lakewood’s Centura – St. Anthony Hospital after they were found to have recently traveled to Wuhan.
The hospital said it could be several days for coronavirus test results to come back from the CDC, but public health risk is considered low at this time.
In Washington state, where the first US case was confirmed, the Northwest Chinese school in Bellevue called off weekend classes for preschoolers through adults amid concerns about the virus.
‘We take the health of our students and families very seriously and think that this is the best course of action,’ officials wrote in an email announcing the cancelled classes.
On the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, a Chinese student association has been distributing face masks and asking students to contribute to efforts to send supplies such as face masks and protective suits to China.
Last week, US officials began funneling all passengers arriving in the US from Wuhan on direct or connecting flights through five major airports – including O’Hare (pictured) to ensure that they are screened
Passengers are seen arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Friday
Screenings are also in place at Los Angeles International Airport. A staff member is seen wearing a face mask at LAX on Friday
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.
President Trump thanked President Xi Jinping and China for its ‘transparency’ in fighting coronavirus on Twitter Friday
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.
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.
Officials are planning to temporarily shutter the US Consulate General in Wuhan (pictured)
News of the evacuation came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide jumped to 1,396 on Saturday morning, including 42 fatalities. Patients are seen undergoing treatment at Wuhan Central Hospital
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
Some 57 million people across 15 Chinese cities are now 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, a city 700 miles south of the capital of Beijing.
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 Saturday, nearly 2,000 cases have been reported in China and another 28 have been reported across 11 other countries: Thailand (4), Taiwan (3), Singapore (3), France (3), Malaysia (3), Japan (3), South Korea (2), Vietnam (2), Nepal (1), Australia (4) and the US (2).
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.
Authorities scrambled to shut tourist attractions and public transport systems in 14 other cities on Friday as the country entered its busiest travel period due to the Lunar New Year, which sees many people venturing back to their home town or village.
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.
Other shocking developments in the outbreak today include:
- China announced further travel curbs on Saturday. Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said it was halting inter-city services to and from Beijing from Sunday, while the capital will also stop running inter-province shuttle buses.
- The previously unknown strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.
- Thailand has reported five cases; Australia has reported four; Singapore, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia three; Vietnam, South Korea and the United States two apiece; and Nepal one.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that while the outbreak was an emergency for China, it was not yet a global health emergency.
- Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
- China says the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.
- Those most affected are older people and those with underlying health conditions.
- Three research teams have begun work on developing potential vaccines, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said. Scientists hope to be testing the first possible vaccines in three months’ time.
- Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is under severe travel restrictions, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended.
- China has advised people to avoid crowds and more than 10 cities in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, have suspended some transport.
- Beijing closed tourist access to the Forbidden City and cancelled large gatherings, including two Lunar New Year temple fairs, and closed part of the Great Wall.
- Starbucks has closed all shops and suspended delivery services in China’s Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five Hubei cities.
- Walt Disney Co’s Shanghai Disney Resort will be closed from Saturday.
- Hong Kong has declared an emergency and will extend school holiday closures until Feb. 17. The city also cancelled all official Lunar New Year celebrations and official visits to mainland China.
- China’s Haikou city, capital of the southern island province of Hainan, started a 14-day centralised medical observation for tourists from Hubei. Sanya city in the province, a popular vacation destination, has shut all tourist sites.
- Airports around the world have stepped up screening.
- Shares and crude prices fell sharply on Friday as investors moved into safe-haven assets amid concerns that the virus could curb travel and hurt economic demand.
- Some experts believe the virus is not as dangerous as the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 700 people since 2012.
- Each person infected is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses.
Dramatic video showed people collapsing on sidewalks in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated
Medical staff members wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, walk at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in China
The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever and, in more severe case, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. Most of China’s provinces and cities activated a Level 1 public health alert, the highest in a four-tier system, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reported Saturday (pictured, medics at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital)
The world’s most populous country scrambled to contain the disease that has already infected nearly 1,300 people, building a second field hospital to relieve overwhelmed medical facilities and closing more travel routes as the country marked the Lunar New Year holiday (pictured, residents bulk buy supplies amid the outbreak)