US to Offer More Flights out of Virus-Impacted Chinese City: State Department

January 30, 2020 Updated: January 31, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

The U.S. State Department said it would evacuate more Americans from the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, offering several hundred nationals a chance to leave while they still can.

This week, the U.S. government flew about 200 people on a chartered flight to a Southern California military base, where the U.S. citizens are currently in medical isolation.

But in a Thursday statement to Americans in the Wuhan and Hankou areas, the agency said it “will be staging additional evacuation flights with capacity for private U.S. citizens,” leaving Wuhan’s international airport on Monday, Feb. 3.

American citizens with valid passports should contact CoronaVirusEmergencyUSC@state.gov to leave. Those who are seeking transport have to be subjected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “screening, health observation, and monitoring requirements,” the agency wrote.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general flew to Beijing to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping over the virus and will make a decision Thursday on whether to declare it a global health emergency.

“I have decided to reconvene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) tomorrow to advise me on whether the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

There have been reports of human-to-human transmission of the disease inside Japan, Vietnam, Germany, and Canada. The CDC on Thursday announced the first U.S. instance of coronavirus transmission in a news release.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night appointed a task force to coordinate the U.S. response and effort to contain the virus, said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

“The task force will lead the administration’s efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information,” Grisham said.

The CDC and State Department have called on Americans to avoid nonessential travel to China and completely avoid traveling to Wuhan or Hubei Province. Nationals in those areas should avoid contact with sick people, avoid living or dead animals, and wash hands with soap and water often.

Meanwhile, U.S.-to-China travel has dropped in recent days amid the coronavirus outbreak, said Secretary of Health Alex Azar, adding that the Trump administration is “not going to take any public health options off the table to protect the American public.”

“But what we’re seeing already is a diminution in flights going back and forth between China and the United States,” Azar told on CNBC on Thursday morning. “Whenever you’re dealing with a public health issue like this, notions of shutting one’s border down—borders are actually porous all around the world, so individuals can come from different places. And you can actually sometimes create hysteria simply by taking various measures,” Azar remarked.