Wuhan virus: US to evacuate its citizens from epicentre

A car approaches road blocks set up by police to restrict departures from Wuhan, China, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city, on Jan 25, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is arranging a charter flight to evacuate personnel and American citizens trapped at the epicentre of a deadly virus in central China, the US State Department said on Sunday (Jan 26).

The flight will leave on Tuesday from the city of Wuhan to take consular personnel to San Francisco, the department said in an email to Americans in China, warning that there would be limited space for private citizens.

"This capacity is extremely limited and if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus," the department said.

Citing unidentified people familiar with the effort, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the plane would seat around 230 people.

Around 1,000 American citizens are believed to be in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, the newspaper said.

France plans to evacuate its citizens stuck in Hubei by bus.

The outbreak, which has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 across China, is believed to have originated in a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan.

The city of 11 million people has been placed under effective quarantine for days, with a car traffic ban going into effect on Sunday.

Transport restrictions have been expanded across Hubei, corralling some 56 million people in total.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.