The new virus accelerated its spread in China with 56 deaths so far, and the U.S. Consulate in the epicentre of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, announced Sunday it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.
A notice from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport U.S. citizens on the Tuesday flight from Wuhan that will proceed directly to San Francisco. It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus.”
The French Consulate also was considering an evacuation of its nationals from the city. It said it’s working on arranging a bus service to help French citizens leave Wuhan.
In the meantime, a person in Orange County, California, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Orange County Health Care Agency, which received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the individual had been sent to a local hospital and is in “good condition.”
The patient is a traveler from Wuhan, China, and “there is no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County,” according to the agency. “The current risk of local transmission remains low,” the agency said in a statement.
It is the third confirmed case in the United States. The others involved a woman in her 60s in Chicago, and a man in his 30s in Washington state.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the outbreak a grave situation, and the government stepped up efforts to restrict travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan, which remains on lock-down.
Anyone traveling from Wuhan is now required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, according to an order from the National Health Commission.
Also Sunday, two of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they were closing for the time being. In the heart of the outbreak where 11 million residents are already on lockdown, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas starting Sunday. The city will assign 6,000 taxis to neighborhoods to help people get around if they need to.
Wuhan plans to build a second makeshift hospital with about 1,000 beds to handle the growing number of patients. The city has said another hospital was expected to be completed Feb. 3.
Medical workers in Wuhan have been among those infected and local media reported a doctor died on Saturday morning. The 62-year-old physician worked at the ear, nose and throat department at Hubei Xinhua Hospital. He was hospitalized on Jan. 18 and died a week later.
Xinhua also said medical supplies are being rushed to the city, including 14,000 protective suits, 110,000 pairs of gloves and masks and goggles.