Countries start evacuating citizens amid Coronavirus concerns

British Airways suspends direct flights to and from China

A medical worker in protective suit checks the body temperature of car passenger at a checkpoint outside the city of Yueyang, Hunan Province, near the border to Hubei Province that is on lockdown after an outbreak of a new coronavirus, China, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China as concerns grow over the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline’s decision comes after the UK government warned against all but essential travel to the country.

From France to Japan, governments were organising evacuations, while Hong Kong – scene of anti-China unrest for months – planned to suspend rail and ferry links with the mainland.

The United States and Japan flew citizens out of the Chinese city at the epicentre of a new virus outbreak on Wednesday, as the death toll rose sharply to 132 and the first case appeared in the Middle East.

The first chartered flight carrying 206 Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday – four of them showing symptoms of fever or coughing.

The United States said it was expanding screening of arrivals from China from five to 20 airports and would consider imposing further travel curbs.”All options for dealing with infectious disease spread have to be on the table, including travel restrictions,” said U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar.

The death toll from the coronavirus, believed to have originated in a Wuhan market which illegally sold wildlife, rose sharply to 132 on Wednesday, with nearly 1,500 new cases.