China on Tuesday urged its citizens to postpone travel abroad as it expanded unprecedented efforts to contain a viral outbreak that has killed 106 people and left other governments racing to pull their nationals from the contagion’s epicentre.
Since the epidermic originated in Wuhan, authorities initially sealed off Wuhan and other cities in central Hubei province late last week, trapping more than 50 million people, in a bid to contain the virus as the high-travel Lunar New Year holiday unfolded.
On Tuesday, China urged its citizens to postpone travel abroad as it expanded unprecedented efforts to contain a viral outbreak that has killed 106 people and left other governments racing to pull their nationals from the contagion’s epicentre.
Due to this lock-down, thousands of foreigners have been trapped inside Wuhai, an industrial hub of 11 million people that has been turned into a near ghost-town under the lockdown.
With a ban on car travel to try and stop people infecting others, the streets of Wuhan are mostly deserted although its hospitals are overwhelmed.
Evacuation plan by some countries
A range of foreign governments have been trying to draw up plans to safely evacuate their citizens, but have faced major logistical and bureaucratic challenges.
Japan announced it would send a chartered flight on Tuesday evening to evacuate about 200 of 650 Japanese nationals.
“We will also bring with it aid supplies such as masks and protective suits for Chinese people as well as for Japanese nationals,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in Tokyo.
Motegi said the plane would leave Wuhan on Wednesday morning and that more flights may follow.
If the mission succeeds, Japan would be the first country to airlift its citizens out of Wuhan.
A US-chartered flight bound for California had been scheduled to leave Wuhan on Tuesday with consular staff and some American citizens.
But the State Department said it was postponed to Wednesday, without giving a reason.
France has said it also intends to fly its citizens out at mid-week, and several other countries including Germany were considering doing so.
To minimise close contact between people, authorities have suspended more than 2,000 train services as well as shut down many bus services.
China has also extended the Lunar New Year holiday into next week to keep people at home, indefinitely postponing classes at schools and universities.
Yet the virus has shown little sign of slowing down.
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