Coronavirus: WHO Holds Emergency Meeting as Epidemic Kills 170, Spreads to 19 Countries

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SWITZERLAND, JANUARY 30 – The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 170, and a confirmed case in Tibet means it has reached every region in mainland China.

Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.

Infections have also spread to at least 18 other countries.

The countries that have reported confirmed cases include Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, United States, France, Germany, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, and the United Arab Emirates. India reported its first confirmed case on January 30.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to again consider whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.

“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

He named Germany, Vietnam and Japan, where there have been cases of people catching the virus from others who have been to China.

“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” the WHO chief said.

More people have now been infected in China than during the Sars outbreak in the early 2000s, but the death toll remains far lower. Sars, also a coronavirus, caused acute respiratory illness.

Voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan are under way to help people who want to leave the closed-off city and return to their countries.

The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid any contagion.

Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland in a detention centre that has been used to house asylum seekers.

Singapore is setting up a quarantine facility on Pulau Ubin, an island north-east of the city-state’s mainland.

In other developments:

  • Flights to take British and South Korean citizens out of Wuhan have both been delayed after relevant permissions from the Chinese authorities did not come through
  • Two flights to Japan have already landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and the passengers are being screened. Three have so far tested positive for the virus, Japanese media report
  • Around 200 US citizens have been flown out of Wuhan and will be isolated at a military base in California for at least 72 hours
  • Two aircraft are due to fly EU citizens home with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight.

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