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US State Department warns ‘do not travel to China’ over deadly coronavirus

Passengers on a tram wear surgical masks on Jan. 24, 2020, in Hong Kong, China. (Willie Siau/SOPA Images/Zuma Press/TNS)
January 31, 2020

The U.S. State Department has raised its travel advisory level for China, now telling citizens on Thursday not to travel to the country over the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

“Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China,” the State Department’s advisory said. “Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.”

“Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means. The Department of State has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus,” the advisory added.

Several major U.S. airlines have already halted flights to China. Some U.S. businesses have already temporarily shut down, and U.S. colleges have also restricted student travel to China.

The U.S. has ordered all non-essential U.S. personnel and their families from the Wuhan province, which has been placed on lockdown by Chinese authorities. The full and partial lockdowns in China have affected tens of millions of people.

The U.S. evacuated U.S. diplomats and other citizens from China on one plane this week, and plans to fly additional U.S. evacuees out of the country in the next few days.

“The Department of State will be staging additional evacuation flights with capacity for private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis, leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on or about February 3, 2020,” said a U.S. Embassy in China statement.

Canada, Germany, South Korea, India, and other nations are also carrying out evacuation efforts for their respective personnel in China.

As of Friday morning, Chinese authorities confirmed 9,709 cases of coronavirus, which includes 213 deaths, as CNN reported. Another 140 cases have been confirmed outside of China.

Russia and North Korea have locked down their borders with China. Several other countries have issued restrictions for China travel.

The World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak “now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC).

It is the sixth time the WHO has declared a PHEIC, with the previous declarations for bird flu, polio, Ebola, and the Zika virus.