WHO says China virus evacuations not needed
United States, Japan and several other countries plans to safely evacuate their citizens from Wuhan
January 28, 2020 07:27 PM
Evacuating foreign nationals from the epicentre of China's deadly virus outbreak is unnecessary, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday according to state media.
The health body said it was still "waiting for clarification" about the comments of its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met with Chinese officials in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping to discuss how to contain the infection. The United States, Japan and several other countries are drawing up plans to safely evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the origin of the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed more than 100 lives across China.
More than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding cities are subject to a lockdown that has halted flights, trains and bus travel in or out of the area.
Tedros' agency "does not recommend the evacuation of nationals, and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact," according to a report in the official Xinhua news agency.
The country's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the WHO chief China had "full capability, confidence and resources to overcome the epidemic at an early date," the report said.
Tedros also will fly back to Geneva on Tuesday evening, said spokesman Christian Lindmeier. The WHO last week stopped short of declaring the outbreak a global emergency, which could have prompted a more aggressive international response such as travel restrictions.
But on Monday it admitted making an error in originally assessing the virus' worldwide threat as "moderate", issuing an update late Sunday saying the risk was actually "high at the global level." More than 4,500 people across China have contracted the virus according to health authorities, while another 7,000 cases are suspected and awaiting confirmation.
Coronavirus: countries evacuate citizens from China
Thousands of foreigners are among millions of people stuck in the central Chinese city of Wuhan as the country struggles to get to grips with the spread of a SARS-like virus which has claimed 106 lives nationwide.
These are the plans so far by foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from the epicentre of the outbreak.
Officials confirmed Tuesday they are beginning to evacuate Japanese nationals, starting with around 200 stranded inside Wuhan in Hubei province. There are roughly 650 Japanese citizens in the area who have said they want to be evacuated, authorities said.
The foreign ministry said Tuesday it is working on a plan to transport home all Australian nationals, most of whom it said are dual nationals. Officials added they had received about 400 calls from Australians in China registering for evacuation. Canberra does not have a consulate in Wuhan but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is negotiating with Chinese officials over the arrangements. He said officials are talking to the United States and Britain about the plans and working with New Zealand on a possible joint evacuation effort.
Local media reported the Indian government will request clearance from Beijing to take more than 250 citizens out of Wuhan and that a Boeing 747 in Mumbai is on standby.
Jakarta said there are 234 Indonesians in China -- roughly 100 in Wuhan and 143 in Hubei province. But the foreign ministry said Tuesday it has yet to decide on an evacuation plan.
Colombo said it is making arrangements to return 860 Sri Lankan students, of whom 32 are in Wuhan.
Seoul will send chartered planes to Wuhan this week, the foreign ministry said, to return hundreds of its citizens to Korea on Thursday and Friday.
Thailand's premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Tuesday the country was waiting for authorisation from Chinese officials before evacuating people, but that aircraft and doctors were on standby. Sixty-four Thais -- 49 students and 15 workers or tourists -- are inside China.
The foreign ministry said it is discussing a possible evacuation for an estimated 150 Filipinos in Wuhan and another 150 in other parts of Hubei, but there are no confirmed plans.
The Department of State said a chartered flight will leave Wuhan on Wednesday with 240 American citizens on board, including consular staff.
The health minister confirmed French citizens will be evacuated without detailing how many. She said they would leave midweek.
Berlin has not confirmed any evacuation plan but said it is considering options for roughly 90 citizens reportedly in Wuhan.
About 100 people, mostly students in Wuhan, will be evacuated, according to local media.
Spanish officials are working with China and the European Union to take Spanish nationals out of the area, the foreign minister said.