The US State Department said Sunday it was arranging a flight from Wuhan to San Francisco for consulate staff and other Americans in the city.
The flight is on Tuesday, it said in an email to Americans in China that warned of “extremely limited” capacity for private citizens.
France’s government and the French carmaker PSA also said they were formulating plans to evacuate staff and families, who will be quarantined in a city in a neighbouring province.
Japan is coordinating with the Chinese government to swiftly evacuate its citizens, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
South Korea’s consulate in Wuhan said it was conducting an online poll of its citizens there to gauge demand for a chartered flight out.
Instead of New Year revelry, Wuhan has been seized by an eerie calm that deepened on Sunday as new restrictions banned most road traffic in the metropolis of 11 million.
Loudspeakers broke the silence by offering tips slathered with bravado.
“Do not believe in rumours. Do not spread rumours. If you feel unwell, go to the hospital in time,” the message said.
“Wuhan is a city that dares to face difficulties and keeps overcoming them,” the female voice added, mentioning the deadly 2002-03 SARS epidemic and 1998 Yangtze River flooding.
The health emergency has overwhelmed Wuhan’s hospitals with patients, prompting authorities to send hundreds of medical reinforcements, including military doctors, and start construction on two field hospitals.
With non-essential vehicles banned from the road, volunteers stepped up to drive sick fellow citizens to hospitals.
“There has to be someone who does this,” Zhang Lin, 48, told AFP journalists as he waited for a patient to emerge from a clinic for the drive back home in nearly deserted streets.
Some foreigners in Wuhan expressed deep concern, saying they feared going outside even though their food supplies were running low.
“We want to be evacuated as soon as possible, because either the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us,” Mashal Jamalzai, a political science student from Afghanistan at Central China Normal University, told AFP.
The outbreak is suspected to have originated in a Wuhan market where animals including rats, snakes and hedgehogs were reportedly sold.
China said Sunday it was banning all trade in wildlife until the emergency is over, but conservationists complain that China has previously failed to deliver on pledges to get tough.
Animal rights groups called for the ban to be made permanent, saying it could help end the possibility of future outbreaks.
Health officials said the virus has since become transmissible between humans.
“From what we see now, this disease is indeed … not as powerful as SARS,” said Gao Fu, head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing in Beijing.
However, it also appears that the “spreading ability of the virus is getting stronger,” said Ma Xiaowei, head of China’s national health commission.
Shanghai on Sunday reported its first death — an 88-year-old man who had pre-existing health problems. The government says most deaths involved the elderly or people already suffering from other ailments.
Fearing a repeat of SARS, China has dramatically scaled back celebrations and travel associated with the New Year holiday, which began Friday, while tourist sites like Beijing’s Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall have closed as a precaution.
In Hong Kong, Disneyland announced Sunday it had closed as a precaution after the city declared an emergency to combat the crisis. Shanghai’s Disneyland park had already closed Saturday.
A new working group to tackle the epidemic, chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, called for local authorities to make arrangements to consider “extending the Spring Festival holiday,” in order to prevent the movement of people.
Beijing’s education authority said the start of the spring semester had been postponed until further notice for all education levels.
Shanghai announced that middle and elementary schools and kindergartens would remain closed until February 17.
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