Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, is believed to be the epicenter of the virus, as previously reported by The Inquisitr. The outbreak began in late December and has since spread to various locations around the world.
On Wednesday, the death toll from the virus reached 132, with 1,500 new cases occurring in China. The total number of confirmed cases is now officially at 5,974 but is believed to be higher. The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has now surpassed the 5,327 cases confirmed from the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002. SARS killed more than 770 people globally, with 349 of the deaths occurring in mainland China.
Last week, the Chinese government began enacting lockdowns in various cities, including Wuhan. Since then, residents and visitors have been unable to leave the city.
The U.S. began sending in planes to collect American citizens and take them home on Wednesday. The most recent chartered flight, carrying about 240 U.S. citizens, has landed in Anchorage, Alaska to refuel before continuing to its destination in southern California. Passengers were reported to have undergone screening tests for the virus in Anchorage, with local hospitals standing by to quarantine and treat infected individuals.
#Coronavirus: we stand ready to support EU countries and ensure a strong and coordinated EU response to the developing situation of the coronavirus, outside and within the Union.— European Commission ???????? (@EU_Commission) January 29, 2020
Press conference by @SKyriakidesEU and @JanezLenarcic https://t.co/rRlfARsjvP
U.S. state department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus commented on the screenings.
“These travelers will be carefully screened and monitored to protect their health, as well as the health and safety of their fellow Americans.”
In the meantime, a government-chartered plane carrying Japanese nationals arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday morning. Of the 206 passengers onboard, officials reported that four displayed symptoms of the virus — a cough and fever — and had been taken to a hospital for further tests.
One Japanese evacuee spoke about his relief at finally being allowed to go home.
“We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly and we were still in the city.”
Other countries are also aiming to evacuate their citizens. The European Union has plans to evacuate citizens via two French planes this week while South Korea is planning to follow suit.
Various airline companies have halted travel to mainland China following the spread of the disease. British Airways suspended service last week after British authorities released a statement that travel to mainland China should be carried out only if necessary. The airline apologized to the public in a statement, stressing the importance of keeping all passengers and flight crew safe.
An Australian research facility announced on Wednesday that they had been able to recreate the virus in the lab, increasing the possibility of developing a vaccine.