State Department orders US employees in Wuhan to evacuate due to coronavirus

State Department orders US employees in Wuhan to evacuate due to coronavirus
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The State Department is reportedly ordering an evacuation of American employees at the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan amid a deadly coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city. 

The department said in an email Sunday that it is arranging a flight from Wuhan to San Francisco on Tuesday as part of an effort to relocate diplomats and some private U.S. citizens, according to reports. A person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that the consulate in Wuhan will be temporarily closed. 

In the email, the State Department called on U.S. citizens with a valid passport to contact the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to request a spot on the outbound plane. 

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“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 notice said.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from The Hill. 

U.S. authorities estimate that about 1,000 Americans live in or near Wuhan, a city of about 11 million residents, the Journal noted. The coronavirus first appeared in the city in December among people who were exposed to wildlife at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. It has since spread to several countries, including the United States, and accounted for 56 deaths as of Sunday morning. 

The U.S. government reportedly agreed to have medical workers on the plane to help ensure the flight doesn't inadvertently help spread the virus. The State Department evacuation notice did not include details about safety procedures the plane would take. 

But the notice indicated that individuals not deemed healthy would be barred from exiting China. 

 “Please note that the Chinese authorities will not allow any U.S. Citizens who are symptomatic for the Coronavirus to depart from Wuhan, China and might be subject to quarantine,” the email said.

Russian and French authorities are putting together similar plans to evacuate citizens and their families, according to The New York Times.

The State Department last week ordered all nonemergency U.S. personnel to evacuate the Wuhan area after the Chinese government announced a quarantine of the city. The department has also issued an advisory urging people traveling to China to exercise "increased caution.”