A growing number of countries are planning to evacuate their
citizens from Wuhan, a central city of 11 million people and
epicenter of the outbreak. A chartered plane taking out U.S.
consulate staff was set to leave Wuhan on Wednesday, a spokeswoman
at the U.S. embassy in Beijing said.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi discussed ways to
protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the coronavirus
and "possible alternatives" to evacuations, a WHO spokesman said.
"The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide," state
television quoted Xi as saying.
"China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the
WHO participation in virus prevention ... We believe that the WHO
and international community will give a calm, objective and rational
assessment of the virus and China is confident of winning the battle
against the virus."
Concern is mounting about the impact the coronavirus may have on the
world's second-biggest economy amid travel bans and an extended
Lunar New Year holiday. Global stocks fell again, oil prices hit
three-month lows and China's yuan currency dipped to its weakest in
A WHO panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to
declare an international emergency over the outbreak. The spokesman
said an increase in cases and deaths in China would not necessarily
trigger the emergency status.
Traditionally, the WHO seeks to promote cooperation and avoid
antagonizing countries it is helping, or it risks a reaction that
could undermine its humanitarian work.
The flu-like virus has spread overseas, with Sri Lanka and Germany
the latest countries to be hit. But none of the 106 deaths has been
outside China and all but six have been in the central city of Wuhan,
where the virus emerged last month.
The WHO said only one of 45 confirmed cases in 13 countries outside
China involved human-to-human transmission, in Vietnam. But a
Japanese official said there was a suspected case of human-to-human
transmission there too.
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Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, the scene of sometimes violent anti-China
unrest for moths, announced plans on Tuesday to suspend high-speed
rail and ferry links with the mainland.
High-speed rail services will be suspended from midnight on Thursday
and the number of flights would be halved.
Thailand confirmed six more infections among visitors from China,
taking its tally to 14, the highest outside China. Far eastern
Russian regions would close their borders with China until Feb. 7,
Tass news agency said, citing the regional government.
Wuhan, where the virus apparently jumped to a human in an illegal
wildlife market, has been all but put under quarantine, with a
lockdown on transport and bans on gatherings.
Tens of millions of others in Hubei live under some form of travel
curbs set up to try to stifle the virus.
Tuesday's toll of 106 dead was up from 81 the day before. The number
of total confirmed cases in China surged to 4,515 as of Monday from
2,835 the previous day, the National Health Commission said.
Communist Party-ruled China has been eager to show it is more
transparent in handling this outbreak, after it was heavily
criticized for efforts to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed about 800 people globally in
(Reporting by Winni Zhou, Sun Yilei, Cheng Leng, David Stanway and
Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Cate Cadell, Gabriel Crossley, Tony
Munroe, Muyu Xu and Yawen Chen in Beijing; Additional reporting by
Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo,
Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London, Ben Blanchard
in Taipei, Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo, Matthias Blamont in
Paris; Writing by Stephen Coates and Robert Birsel; Editing by Nick
Macfie and Andrew Cawthorne)
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