UK urges citizens in China to leave; Belgium sees first case

AP International News

In this Feb. 2, 2020, photo, Polish military personnel wearing protective suits talk with evacuees from Wuhan, China, after their arrival at an airport in Marseilles, France. China said Tuesday the number of infections from a new virus surpassed 20,000 as medical workers and patients arrived at a new hospital and President Xi Jinping said “we have launched a people’s war of prevention of the epidemic.” (AP Photo/Arek Rataj)

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LONDON (AP) — Britain on Tuesday urged all of its citizens in China to leave because of the virus outbreak, while Belgium became the latest nation to announce a confirmed case.

The U.K. Foreign Office said in an updated travel advisory that commercial airline options remain available throughout China, with the exception of Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak that includes the hard-hit city of Wuhan. The British government said it will still try to evacuate British citizens from Hubei, where some 50 million people are under travel restrictions.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the U.K. government now advises citizens “in China to leave the country if they can, to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus.”

France also issued an advisory, warning against any non-essential travel to China and suggesting that French citizens in China return home.

More than 20,400 people have been infected with the virus in China and 425 have died. Two other people have died in the Philippines and Hong Kong and 20 other nations have reported cases.

Belgium, meanwhile, reported its first case of the coronavirus, found in one of the nine citizens who had been repatriated from Wuhan over the weekend. The health ministry said the person was in good health and didn’t show any symptoms of the disease. The infected person was taken to a special hospital for further care while the others remained under observation.

Germany confirmed two more cases of the virus that include another employee of the auto parts company that was visited by a Chinese colleague two weeks ago and a second child of one of those employees.

In all, Europe has 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus: Germany has 12; France six; Russia, Italy and the U.K have two each and Finland, Sweden, Spain and Belgium have one each.

Italy could lose up to 4.5 billion euros ($4.97 billion) in tourism revenue this year if coronavirus fears keep visitors away, leading polling agency Demoskopika said in a study released Tuesday. The amount represents around 5% of tourism-generated contribution to Italy’s gross domestic product.

Fueling those fears, four regional Italian governors from the anti-migrant League party formally asked the health ministry to require school-age children from China to undergo 14 days of observation before being allowed back to class.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, however, demanded an end to such discriminatory reactions and the Italy’s National Health Institute insisted that its precautionary measures for school-age children were sufficient.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the first of five military transport aircraft used to evacuate Russians from Wuhan took off Tuesday from an airport in southern Siberia. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said 132 Russians and 15 citizens of other ex-Soviet nations are to be evacuated from Wuhan. They will undergo a quarantine in southwestern Siberia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Chinese authorities to work hard to halt the outbreak.

“I hope that our Chinese friends will overcome the difficult situation with honor. We all want results of the fight against the new virus to be as efficient and quick as possible,” Putin said Tuesday at a meeting with students and researchers.

Dr. David Heymann, who led the World Health Organization’s response to the SARS outbreak, said it’s too early to tell when the virus outbreak will peak but that it appears the disease is still on the increase. He said the exponential spike in China’s caseload in recent days was partly attributable to the fact that Chinese officials expanded their search to include milder cases, not only people with pneumonia.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of the China virus outbreak at: https://www.apnews.com/VirusOutbreak

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