The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to 132, with health authorities at the centre of the epidemic reporting another 840 confirmed cases.
- China agreed to let the World Health Organisation send a team of experts into the region
- Foreign governments are organising evacuations for their residents trapped in Wuhan
- Xi Jinping said China was fighting “a devil”, according to state TV
However, the Government in Beijing said it remained confident it could contain the disease.
China’s Hubei province, at the centre of the outbreak, said another 25 patients had died in the province and reported 840 new cases by the end of Tuesday (local time).
Hubei’s health authority said it had recorded 125 deaths and 3,554 cases by the end of Tuesday. For the whole of China say there were more than 4,000 confirmed cases.
The outbreak began in Wuhan, the province’s capital, and the majority of deaths and confirmed cases have been from the city.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was sure of defeating the “devil” coronavirus, but international alarm was rising as the outbreak spread across the world.
From France to Japan, governments were organising evacuations, while Hong Kong — a scene of anti-China unrest for months — planned to suspend rail and ferry links with the mainland.
The US Embassy in Beijing said a chartered plane would pick up US consular staff from Wuhan on Wednesday.
The European Commission said it would help fund two aircraft to fly EU citizens home, with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Mr Xi met in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus, as well as possible evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.
“The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide,” state television quoted Mr Xi as saying.
“China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention … China is confident of winning the battle against the virus.”
China agreed that the WHO could send a team of international experts “as soon as possible” to increase understanding of the virus and guide the global response.
In Australia, Melbourne-based scientists became the first outside China to develop a lab-grown version of the disease, a major breakthrough in efforts to develop a vaccine.
Travel bans and restrictions
Australia joined the ranks of countries trying to get their citizens out of China, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing plans to evacuate “isolated and vulnerable” Australians trapped in Hubei province and transfer them to a quarantine centre on Christmas Island.
@marisepayne tweet: We now advise you to ‘reconsider your need to travel’ to China overall, due to the outbreak of novel #coronavirus & travel restrictions by local authorities. ‘Do not travel’ to #Hubei Province. Contact your doctor for symptoms of respiratory illness.
She said more than 600 Australians had registered as being in Hubei province
The United States said it was expanding screening of arrivals from China from five to 20 airports and considering imposing further travel curbs.
“All options for dealing with infectious disease spread have to be on the table, including travel restrictions,” a US health official said.
The US warned that Americans should reconsider visiting China, while Britain advised against all but essential travel to mainland China. South Korea also advised its citizens to stay away.
Facebook became the first major US company to announce a travel suspension after the US Government’s warning, saying it had asked employees to halt non-essential travel to mainland China and to work from home if they had travelled there.
Europe’s biggest bank, HSBC, banned all staff travel to Chinese-ruled Hong Kong for two weeks and to mainland China until further notice, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
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