US to evacuate citizens from Chinese city amid spread of coronavirus: report

The U.S. government is reportedly preparing a charter flight this weekend to evacuate American citizens and diplomats from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the latest coronavirus outbreak.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the plans Saturday, citing a person familiar with the operation. The expected flight on Sunday comes as the death toll from the illness grows to more than 40 and the number of confirmed cases continues to rise around the world.

The Wuhan Consulate is reaching out to the estimated 1,000 American citizens in the area to offer them a seat on the jet, which seats about 230, according to the Journal. Those evacuated will pay the financial cost of their ticket.

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The passengers on the jet, a Boeing 767, will include diplomats from the U.S. Consulate, Americans and their families, and medical personnel aboard to ensure that anyone infected with the virus is cared for. 

The person familiar with the plan confirmed that any additional seats could be given to non-U.S. citizens, including diplomats of other nations, and that the U.S. intends to temporarily shutter its Wuhan Consulate.

The operation was reportedly approved by China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies.

Neither the Wuhan Consulate nor the State Department immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill on Saturday.

Beyond the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, France and the U.S. have all reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus, raising fears of an international outbreak.

More than 1,300 people have been infected globally, according to tallies, with the majority of the cases occurring in China.