30 Jan 2020

Wuhan coronavirus: Evacuations begin as WHO voices concern on virus spread

8:57 am on 30 January 2020

The United States and Japan have flown nationals out of China's coronavirus epicentre, as the WHO said there was evidence of person-to-person transmission outside the country.

The flu-like virus has caused 133 deaths in China, almost all in the central province of Hubei. The virus emerged last month in a live wild animal market in the province's capital Wuhan.

Almost 6000 cases have been reported in China. About 60 cases, but no deaths, have been reported in 15 other countries.


The World Health Organisation said there was "deeply concerning" evidence of person-to-person transmission of coronovirus in countries outside China.

In the last few days the progress of the virus especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva, naming Germany, Vietnam and Japan.

The WHO said its Emergency Committee will meet again on Thursday to decide whether the spread of the new virus from China now constitutes a global emergency.

Some 200 US citizens evacuated from Wuhan were met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses at Riverside, California on January 29, 2020.

US citizens evacuated from Wuhan were met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses at Riverside, California. Photo: Matt Hartman / AFP


The United States flew about 210 citizens out of Wuhan, to be screened several times on arrival in California. Britain said it would put 200 citizens on a charter plane on Thursday.

Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island some 2000km from the mainland.

New Zealand is joining with Australia to get citizens out of Wuhan.

EU nations are also repatriating citizens. France is sending its first flight on Thursday.

Airlines suspend flights

Some major airlines suspended flights to China because of the coronavirus outbreak.

British Airways suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China.

United Airlines has cancelled 24 US flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai between 1 and 8 February because of a sharp drop in demand.

Cathay Pacific said it would cut flights to China from 30 January to the end of March, while Air Canada has also reduced its number of flights.

Indonesia's Lion Air said it would be temporarily suspending flights from Saturday, affecting dozens of flights on routes to 15 Chinese cities.

Russia's Ural Airlines said it had suspended some services to Europe popular with Chinese tourists, including Paris and Rome, because of the outbreak.

Other airlines are introducing measures aimed at reducing the chances of spreading the virus. Taiwan's China Airlines said it was encouraging passengers to bring their own beverage bottles, while Singapore Airlines was among those allowing crew to wear masks on China flights.

A woman cleans a boy's face in Wuhan,  Hubei province. The number of confirmed cases in the new virus outbreak in China reached 5,974 on 29 January.

A woman and young boy wearing masks in Wuhan, Hubei province, 29 January. Photo: AFP


Australia has seven confirmed cases of the virus, four in New South Wales, two in Victoria and one in Queensland.

The latest case, a Victorian resident in his 60s, became unwell on 23 January and is in isolation at home. The man had travelled to Wuhan City in Hubei Province and first started showing symptoms more than two days after returning to Australia.

In Queensland, a 44-year-old Chinese national in isolation in hospital is the state's first confirmed case of the illness.

Federal health authorities say anyone who has returned from Hubei province should isolate themselves for 14 days.

China's women's soccer team is being quarantined in a Brisbane hotel over concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Thirty-two players and staff will stay in isolation in a hotel in Brisbane as a precaution until next week.

There are no confirmed nor suspected cases in New Zealand.


Scientists in Australia said they had developed a lab-grown version of the virus, the first recreated outside China.

The researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said they would share the sample, grown from an infected patient, with the WHO and global laboratories in the hope of hastening immunisation and detection.

- ABC / BBC / Reuters / RNZ