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US to Evacuate Citizens From City at Heart of Outbreak

Coronavirus death toll hits 80
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2020 7:26 AM CST
In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 photo, passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
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(Newser) – China continued to step up measures to deal with the coronavirus outbreak Sunday—but it may be far too late to stop the virus from spreading widely. The mayor of the city at the center of the outbreak disclosed Sunday that an estimated 5 million people left Wuhan before the city was locked down last week, the South China Morning Post reports. Zhou Xianwang said that included people who rushed to leave the city after the lockdown was announced Sunday night, as well as millions of people who left earlier for the Lunar New Year. Authorities say the holiday has been extended by three days, until next Sunday, to stop the spread of the virus, reports the BBC. The break will last even longer in cities including Shanghai, which has ordered most employers to remain closed until Feb. 10.

The head of the World Health Organization will hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing on Monday to discuss containing the outbreak, which has now killed at least 81 people and sickened close to 3,000, reports the Guardian. Most of the cases have been in Hubei province, which includes Wuhan, but there have been cases in most of China's provinces and at least 44 cases in other countries have been reported, including five in the US. All the US patients, including a woman diagnosed in Arizona on Sunday, had traveled to Wuhan, authorities say. Countries including France, Japan, and the US are planning to evacuate their citizens from the city, the AP reports. Officials at the US Consulate in Wuhan say a charter flight to San Francisco on Tuesday will evacuate consulate personnel and some American citizens considered to be "at greater risk from coronavirus." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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