According to China’s foreign ministry on Friday (Jan 31), the government is preparing to send charter planes overseas to bring home its citizens who are from Hubei, where the novel coronavirus originated late last year.
Ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a one-sentence statement, “Considering the difficulties facing Chinese citizens overseas, especially those from Wuhan, the Chinese government decided to send chartered flights as early as possible to take them back to Wuhan.”
According to China’s Civil Aviation Administration, there will be two chartered flights on Friday to bring home Wuhan residents from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand, operated by Xiamen Air.
Friday’s announcement from the ministry of foreign affairs came even as several carriers have also announced that they are suspending or decreasing flights to China because of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
As of Friday, there are around 9,800 confirmed cases of the virus, and the death toll now stands at 213. The virus is now present in 18 countries aside from China, including India and the Philippines, which reported its first cases on January 30.
Growing concern over the spread of the virus has caused countries such as Germany, Britain and the United States to tell citizens to postpone trips to China. The US State Department issued an advisory saying, “Do not travel to China, due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.”
China itself has asked its citizens to cancel group tours abroad and refrain from any overseas trips for the time being.
Zhu Tao of China’s Civil Aviation Administration said at a January 30 media conference that officials are working together to bring Chinese travellers back home.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency on Thursday (Jan 30) due to the novel coronavirus.
This marked a turn from initial announcements from the health agency of the United Nations, which has been on the ground in Wuhan and has met a number of times since the outbreak began late last year.
In Geneva on Thursday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said “Over the past few weeks we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen that has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak. Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems. “We must all act together now to limit further spread… We can only stop it together.”
A global health emergency is defined by the WHO as a “public health emergency of international concern,” and as an “extraordinary event” that is “serious, unusual or unexpected.”
Mr Tedros, however, urged people to stay calm, and added that officials in China were doing their utmost to prevent further spread of the disease. He said “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.” -/TISG
Read related: WHO declares novel coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency
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