The Latest: Plane bringing back Britons from China delayed

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China that has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 100:

6:30 a.m.

A U.K. government-chartered flight that had been scheduled to bring 200 British citizens home from the Chinese city at the center of a new virus outbreak won’t fly as planned Thursday.

Britain’s Foreign Office said late Wednesday that “a number of countries’ flights have been unable to take off as planned. We continue working urgently to organize a flight to the U.K. as soon as possible.”

It was unclear what was causing the delay, but the Foreign Office said in a statement that conversations between British and Chinese officials were “ongoing at all levels.”

The British government said earlier that a flight would leave the central China city of Wuhan on Thursday morning.

When the Britons do return, they will be quarantined under medical supervision for 14 days.

Britain says it also has been trying to bring back Chinese family members of some Britons in Wuhan, but that Chinese rules prohibit it.


6:15 a.m.

In a report published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese scientists describe evidence that the new virus has spread person-to-person among close contacts since mid-December.

Based on the first 425 confirmed cases, they estimate that each infection led to 2.2 others on average. That’s a bit more than ordinary flu but far less than some other respiratory diseases, such as whooping cough and tuberculosis. The rate for SARS, a cousin to the new virus, was estimated to be 3.

The researchers write that "considerable efforts" will be needed to control the virus from spreading if this ratio holds up elsewhere. The average incubation period is five days.

More than half of the cases in which symptoms began before Jan. 1 were tied to a seafood market, but only 8% of cases after that have been.

The virus has sickened thousands of people, and more than 100 have died. A vast majority of the cases and all deaths have been in China.


4:45 a.m.

More airlines are suspending flights to China because of the virus outbreak that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 and sharply lower passenger demand.

Air Canada is suspending direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai. Canada's country's largest carrier said Wednesday that it took the action after Canada's government advised against all non-essential China travel.

Air France says it suspended its flights to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. The airline is limiting flights to Shanghai and Beijing to one flight daily starting Jan. 31. because of lower demand.

And Dutch carrier KLM says it is reducing flights to various Chinese cities for a month because of a drop in bookings.


4:10 a.m.

Officials say 201 Americans evacuated from the Chinese city at the center of a new virus outbreak are undergoing three days of monitoring at a California military base to ensure they show no signs of the illness.

Dr. Chris Braden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters Wednesday that they aren't being quarantined.

If any demand to leave March Air Reserve Base before the three days are up, authorities would decide whether they would be allowed off the base where the plane landed.

Braden says that if officials feel any of the passengers need to be quarantined, officials could do so.

None of the passengers showed signs of having the virus when they were screened before leaving the Chinese city of Wuhan that is the epicenter of the virus or when they were screened again during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

France is sending a plane Wednesday night to evacuate some 200 citizens, and two other flights are possible. Other countries also are making plans for evacuations.

The virus has sickened thousands of people, and more than 100 have died.


3:50 a.m.

French officials say a military aircraft with a medical team is leaving Wednesday night to evacuate some 200 citizens from the Chinese city where a new virus originated.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said at a news conference that the first flight was expected to arrive home Friday from Wuhan, China, and those on it will be confined.

At least one other flight with French and other foreigners is to leave by Friday. A third possible flight would bring home those who are ill and want to return.

Germany, Spain, Denmark, Poland are among European countries who want to get citizens on a French flight. Mexico and Mauritius also have asked to join.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain are among the countries that have announced they are planning evacuations. The U.S. brought back 201 Americans on Wednesday.

The virus has sickened thousands of people, and more than 100 have died.


3:40 a.m.

Russia has announced measures to prevent a new virus from China from spreading there.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said Wednesday that the land border with China will remain closed to car traffic until March 1.

She said all train connections except for one train from Moscow to Beijing will be halted starting at midnight Thursday.

Golikova said authorities will make a decision on planes between Russia and China in the coming days.

She said Chinese students who left on Lunar New Year vacation will be asked not to resume their studies in Russian universities until March 1.

No one in Russia has tested positive for the new virus. Authorities have screened all travelers from China and hospitals are making checks.

The virus has sickened thousands of people, and more than 100 have died.


3:40 a.m.

Canada says it's planning to join other countries evacuating its citizens from the Chinese epicenter of the outbreak of a new virus.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Phillipe Champagne said Wednesday that Canada has secured a plane to evacuate Canadians from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated.

He says 160 Canadians have asked to be brought back to Canada from Wuhan. Logistics and authorization from China still need to be worked out.

The U.S. brought back 201 Americans from Wuhan who landed in California on Wednesday. Canada joins Australia, New Zealand, Britain and other countries that have announced they are planning evacuations.

Canada also is advising Canadians against nonessential travel to China.

The virus has sickened thousands of people, and more than 100 have died.


1:30 a.m.

Officials say Finland has its first case of a person who has tested positive for the new virus from China.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said Wednesday that The 32-year-old woman was being treated at an isolation ward at a hospital in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.

It is the first case in the Nordic region.

Thousands of people have been sickened by the virus and more than 100 have died. Of the more than 6,000 cases globally, 99% percent and all deaths have been in China.

Officials say the death rate from the virus is about 2 percent.

With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.


1 a.m.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says that the U.N. health agency estimates the death rate of the new virus that emerged in China is about 2%.

Dr. Michael Ryan told reporters Wednesday that most people infected with the new virus seem to only experience mild illness. In comparison, the genetically related SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it.

Ryan says the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus in Japan, Vietnam and Germany is one reason why the U.N. health agency is reconvening its expert committee to determine whether the epidemic merits being declared an international emergency.

Of the more than 6,000 cases globally, 99% percent and all deaths have been in China.

With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.


12:45 a.m.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says China is taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge" because of the virus outbreak

Dr. Michael Ryan made the comments to reporters Wednesday after returning from a trip to Beijing to discuss the new virus with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

Ryan says the epidemic remains centered in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province but that “information is being updated and is changing by the hour.”

He says many of those affected experience only a mild illness and estimated that the death rate is at about 2%. The death rate for SARS, a related virus, was about 10%.

Ryan says the few instances of the new virus spreading between people in countries beyond China, including Germany, are of great concern.

He said that is part of the reason why the U.N. health agency’s director-general has reconvened a coronavirus expert committee to meet Thursday. It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency. To date, about 99% of the nearly 6,000 cases are in China.


12:11 a.m.

A plane evacuating 201 Americans from the Chinese city at the center of the virus outbreak has arrived in California.

The jet landed Wednesday morning at March Air Reserve Base east of Los Angeles after all passengers passed health screenings during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

The passengers will undergo additional screenings in California and be placed in temporary housing. Officials have not said how long they will stay there.

After the plane landed, a ground crew wearing white clothing approached the airport and three buses pulled up nearby.


11:45 p.m. Wednesday

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist is on artificial respiration in a Paris hospital with a new virus that is rapidly spreading, after two French hospitals initially declined to test him for the sickness.

France has four confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus, including two people in intensive care, and is seeking to repatriate hundreds of people from China.

The 80-year-old arrived in France last Thursday and went to an emergency room in southern Paris on Saturday with a fever, said Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpanah, infectious diseases chief at Bichat Hospital.

The man had a fever but no signs of respiratory trouble, and is not from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but about 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of there, Yazdanpanah told reporters Wednesday.

Because he “didn’t fulfill the definition” of someone at risk of having the virus, two hospitals decided it was unnecessary to test him, Yazdanpanah said.

“If we have to hospitalize all patients who have a fever and come from China, that’s dangerous for our hospital system in general,” he said.

The tourist developed respiratory trouble on Wednesday, and tested positive for the virus. The hospitals held an emergency meeting to identify any personnel or patients who had been in touch with the man, who was put on artificial respiration and has a severe case of the virus, Yazdanpanah said.

Bichat Hospital is leading French efforts to treat patients with the virus but hospital officials said it only has nine beds equipped for infected patients.


11 p.m.

Germany’s Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss are suspending flights to mainland China through Feb. 9 as fears spread about a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

Lufthansa said in a statement Wednesday that the airlines will fly one last time to their destinations in China, giving passengers a chance to catch their flights and bringing crews back to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The airlines will continue to fly to Hong Kong as scheduled.

British Airways has also halted all flights to China and American Airlines has suspended flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing. They joined several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service to China as fears spread about the coronavirus.

Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.


8:30 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the country’s government to be prepared to deal with a possible outbreak of a new virus from China.

“It is a new phenomenon, and the question is how well we are prepared for this challenge,” Putin said during a meeting with several Cabinet members.

Russia shares a long border with China. Up to 2 million tourists from China visit Russia every year, with about the same number of Russian tourists traveling to China.

So far there haven't been any confirmed cases of the virus in Russia.

Since the start of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, officials have reported testing 1.3 million people who returned from China. More than 130 of them have been hospitalized with suspected coronavirus, but in the end were diagnosed with other conditions.


8 p.m.

German auto parts maker Webasto said Wednesday it has temporarily shut its headquarters near Munich after four members of its staff were confirmed to have been infected with a new virus earlier this week.

The infections are believed to have occurred following contact with a Chinese employee from Wuhan who had traveled to Germany to lead a training session.

The company said most of the 1,000 staff at the site in Stockdorf are working from home for the time being. Webasto has an annual turnover of about 3.4 billion euros from the sale of panoramic car roofs and other auto parts, about half of which goes to China.


7:45 p.m.

China has reported more infections from a new virus than it had from an outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003, although the death toll is still lower.

China said it has confirmed 5,974 cases of the new virus, compared to 5,327 cases of SARS.

It also reported another large jump in cases on Wednesday and a rise in the death toll to 132. That compares to 348 people killed in China during SARS. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

Scientists say there are still many critical questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how transmissible and severe it is. More than 50 cases have been reported outside China.


7:30 p.m.

The British government is preparing to fly citizens back from the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak of a new virus, and will put them in quarantine for two weeks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted Wednesday that “anyone who returns from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.”

Britain’s Press Association news agency reported that the returning Britons will likely be held on a military base.

There are an estimated 200 British citizens in Wuhan, and a flight is expected to bring them home on Thursday.

At least 132 people have died and more than 6,000 have been infected with a new type of coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan in December.

The British government has advised against all but essential travel to mainland China, and British Airways on Wednesday said it is suspending flights to and from the country, apart from Hong Kong.


7 p.m.

Kazakhstan has suspended all flights, train and bus services to neighboring China and stopped issuing visas to Chinese nationals due to the outbreak of a new virus.

The government announced halting all flights to China starting Monday and all trains as of Saturday. Passenger bus service was suspended earlier Wednesday. Kazakhstan, a vast nation in Central Asia, shares a long border with China.

Kazakh authorities have also rejected a proposal by the International Tennis Federation to move a series of the Federation Cup games to Kazakhstan from China.

Thirty-five people who recently traveled to China remain hospitalized in Kazakhstan, but none has been confirmed to be suffering from coronavirus.


6:15 p.m.

Four members of a Chinese family who traveled to the United Arab Emirates are being treated for a new virus.

The statement from health officials, carried by the state-run WAM news agency, comes after authorities earlier acknowledged the first cases Wednesday in the country that's home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Earlier, it said the family came from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

It did not explain how or when the family traveled from Wuhan to the UAE, the home of long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways.


5 p.m.

Australian health officials say the Chinese women's national soccer team is being quarantined in Brisbane city over concerns about the possible spread of a new virus.

Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says 32 people — including players and staff — traveled through the virus-effect Chinese city of Wuhan a week ago.

The team will be kept in isolation in a Brisbane hotel until Wednesday next week. The group arrived in Brisbane on a flight from Shanghai on Tuesday before border officials placed them in isolation.

They are travelling with a team doctor and none has shown symptoms.


4:15 p.m.

British Airways says it's immediately suspending all of its flights to and from mainland China after the U.K. government warned against unnecessary travel to the country amid a virus outbreak.

BA said in a statement Wednesday that “we apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.”

The airline operates daily flights from London's Heathrow Airport to Shanghai and Beijing. It took the measure a day after Britain's Foreign Office updated its travel advice on China, warning against “all but essential travel” to the mainland, not including Hong Kong and Macao.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The outbreak has killed more than 130 people.


11: 15 a.m.

Australia and New Zealand will work together to evacuate their isolated and vulnerable citizens from China’s virus-hit Hubei province.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday could not say how many or how soon citizens would be flown by Qantas from Hubei. The departures would be arranged in consultation with China.

The citizens would be sent for 14 days to a quarantine center on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean which has been used to hold asylum seekers and foreign criminals facing deportation.

Australia and New Zealand have also ratcheted up their travel advice for China.

Australia has advised its citizens to reconsider their need to travel to China and not to travel to Hubei.

New Zealand's government advised people to avoid all non-essential travel to China due to the coronavirus outbreak.


10 a.m.

Two Japanese men evacuated from a virus-hit Chinese city say they felt relieved but also exhausted upon their arrival in Tokyo.

They were aboard a chartered flight Japan arranged to evacuate 206 Japanese citizens from Wuhan.

Takeo Aoyama who works for Nippon Steel Corp. and Takayuki Kato, who works for Intec, both wore masks but said they felt fine.

Kato said he was not panicking in Wuhan, but “I was shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That’s when the situation drastically changed."

China cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to try to contain the outbreak of the new type of coronavirus that has infected thousands of people.

Aoyama said many people who wish to go home to Japan are still in Wuhan, including workers at a Japanese supermarket chain staying open to supply food.

He said it is important to step up preventive measures in Japan, but “I hope we can also provide support for the Chinese people, which I think would also help the Japanese people who are still there.”

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