The U.S. Department of State ordered employees of the Consulate in Wuhan, China, to evacuate from the city in wake of the spreading novel coronavirus. The order comes as Chinese authorities expand containment responses designed to slow or stop the rapidly spreading virus that has so far killed at least 41 people.
U.S. officials stated the evacuation of consulate staff members because of concerns of the rapid spreading of the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, the New York Times reported. The officials also cited transportation restrictions in Wuhan and hospitals becoming overwhelmed by patients as reasons for the order.
The U.S. government arranged a charter flight to transport American diplomats and U.S. citizens on Sunday, sources told the Times. It is expected the plane will fly evacuees to the West Coast of the United States. It is expected that medical staff will accompany the passengers to conduct screening and provide medical care if necessary. Passengers who are not part of U.S. consulate staff will be responsible for the cost of the flight.
French Consulate officials in Wuhan are also reported to be considering bus transportation to remove staff who wish to leave the city. The move is being planned in cooperation with Chinese authorities, the Times reported.
The moves by these consulates comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping called the current situation in his country “grave.” He ordered the suspension of international tourist travel from China.
“Confronted with the grave situation of this accelerating spread of pneumonia from infections with the novel coronavirus, we must step up the centralized and united leadership under the party central” leadership, Mr. Xi told members of the Communist Patry Politburo.
“We’re sure to be able to win in this battle to beat the epidemic through prevention and control,” Mr. Xi said during his Politburo meeting broadcast.