Japan and the United States prepared on Wednesday to transport hundreds of their citizens from the zero zone of China’s deadly virus epidemic, which has so far claimed more than 100 lives.
More than 50 million people have been locked in and around Wuhan, the central industrial city where the outbreak began, in an attempt by authorities to stop an infection that has since spread to more than 15 countries.
Thousands of foreigners are effectively trapped in the area, and many countries are developing plans to evacuate their citizens.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the virus “demon” during Tuesday’s talks with the head of the World Health Organization in Beijing, and promised a “timely” publication of updates on the crisis.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (not pictured) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing: he described the epidemic as “demon”
Read more: China records the first death by coronavirus in Beijing while the number rises to 106
But the United States questioned the transparency of Beijing and urged the country to show “more cooperation” amid growing global fears about a new coronavirus that has infected more than 4,500 people in China and dozens more elsewhere.
Japan sent a first plane to pick up its Wuhan citizens Tuesday night. The plane was due to return to Tokyo on Wednesday morning.
About 200 people are expected to be on board the first flight, of about 650 Japanese citizens in the area who have said they want to be repatriated.
“We will continue to take all possible measures to bring all people home with the hope of returning to Japan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers on Tuesday, according to Jiji Press.
Officials will be on board the plane to monitor passengers during the return flight, but there are no plans to isolate those arriving from Wuhan.
“We will carry out a quarantine on board upon return,” an official with the Japanese health ministry told AFP.
– Rising response of nations –
An American charter flight is also expected to leave the city on Wednesday for an airport in the Los Angeles area.
The plane will transport personnel from the local US consulate. UU., As well as some US citizens, who will be asked to reimburse the cost of their flights.
“These travelers will be carefully selected and monitored to protect their health, as well as the health and safety of their fellow Americans,” said State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus.
The Alaska Department of Transportation said earlier this week that the flight would stop to refuel in the US state. UU. And transport 240 Americans.
The European Union will take its citizens aboard two French planes this week, and South Korea should do the same. Several other countries were evaluating their options.
The United States and several other countries have urged their citizens to “reconsider” all trips to China.
– “Serious fight” –
Many streets in Beijing are almost empty amid fears about the coronavirus epidemic: with the death toll above 100, China and foreign governments are taking steps to try to contain it.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country was fighting a “serious fight” against the “demon” epidemic during talks with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Beijing on Tuesday.
China has extended its Lunar New Year holidays to keep people indoors as much as possible, and suspended a wide range of train services.
After the Xi-Tedros talks, WHO said the two sides agreed to send international experts to China “as soon as possible … to guide the global response efforts.”
“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and worldwide is the top priority of WHO,” said Tedros.
Until Tuesday, all cases reported in more than a dozen countries had involved people who had been in or around Wuhan, but Japan and Germany reported the first person-to-person infections outside of China.
Some experts praised Beijing for being more reactive and open about this virus compared to its management of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2002-2003.
But others say that local cadres had previously focused more on projecting stability than responding to the outbreak when it began to spread earlier this month.
Since then, the number of cases has skyrocketed, doubling to more than 4,500 in 24 hours until Tuesday.
The United States said Tuesday it was working on a vaccine, but it would take months to develop it.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, asked Beijing to show “more cooperation and transparency”, saying that the United States had offered its help three times, until now without success.