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Germans evacuated from China due to coronavirus

Timothy Jones | Alistair Walsh | Kristie Pladson | Darko Janjevic
February 1, 2020

An evacuation plane sent by the German government has left Wuhan with over 120 civilians on board, most of them German nationals, as the coronavirus death toll grows. Read the latest on the outbreak here.

Luftwaffe plane takes off from Cologne/Bonn Airport
A military plane left Germany on Friday to bring back German nationals from China's WuhanImage: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg
  • A German military plane is flying back to Europe with over 120 passengers on board after evacuating German nationals from Wuhan. 
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.
  • Germany confirmed seven cases of the virus and has advised against nonessential travel to China.
  • Chinese authorities raised the death toll to 258, with the number of infections worldwide nearing 12,000.

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

07:21 We will now close our live blog, thanks for staying with us. Check DW's home page for the latest developments in the coronavirus epidemic. 

05:56 India said 324 Indian nationals evacuated from China's Hubei province arrived in New Delhi early Saturday. They were placed in a quarantine facility on the outskirts of the capital, will be monitored for signs of infection, and are expected to remain in quarantine for two weeks. 

04:34 North Korea, which shares land borders with China and Russia, notified the Russian embassy on extra precautionary measures over the coronavirus.

Embassy employees or guests who arrive from China or Russia will be "isolated" for 15 days, the embassy said.  Also, medical staff from the Pyongyang hospital "will regularly visit diplomatic missions and consulates and do medical checkups."

"When there are suspicions about employees being infected by the new coronavirus, the employees will immediately be transported to the predetermined locations for isolating foreign nationals," the Russian embassy said on their Facebook page.

04:21 Russia opened three border crossings in the country's far east to tourists evacuating from China. Medical staff will take the tourists' temperature and examine them for signs of the coronavirus before the crossing, said authorities in Russia's Primorsky Krai region.

04:17 The Trump administration has made "draconian cuts" to the US agencies in charge of fighting epidemics, said former US Vice President Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Iowa. Biden hopes to secure the Democratic nomination and run against Trump.

Biden said the current administration has cut the budgets of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Spanish plane lands outside Madrid
Spain also repatriated their citizens from the Chinese city of WuhanImage: Reuters/S. Vera

03:34 The first coronavirus patient in Spain, a man living on the remote island La Gomera, was apparently infected with the virus after being in contact with an infected person from Germany, the Spanish Health Ministry said.

02:44 The German evacuation plane is due to make a stopover in Moscow before continuing on to Frankfurt. After arriving in Germany, the passengers are set to spend two weeks in quarantine, living in a military garrison in the country's southwest.

02:18 Over 120 people, most of them German nationals, are heading back home from Wuhan onboard German military plane. The German government had deployed the aircraft to evacuate its citizens from the center of the coronavirus outbreak. None of the passengers has the virus or is suspected of having it, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday.

01:22 China had 11,791 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections as of Friday, according to the nation's authorities, with over 130 cases confirmed outside of China.

01:07 The UN said it would move the next round of talks on global biodiversity out of China due to the coronavirus outbreak. Instead of the Chinese city of Kunming, delegates are now set to meet in Rome, Italy, on February 24. UN officials said they have made the decision after consultations with the Chinese government.

01:03 German lawmaker Karl Lauterbach, who holds a degree in epidemiology from Harvard University, said Asian-looking people were suffering discrimination in Germany due to fears of the coronavirus.

"It is not acceptable to have certain groups of Chinese tourists antagonized in Germany, or to prevent them from entering restaurants," he was quoted as saying by the Rheinische Post daily.

Lauterbach also said such actions made no medical sense and that infections were unlikely.

00:35 The WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly praised China for the nation's response to the outbreak.

"We would've seen many more [coronavirus] cases outside [China] by now, & probably deaths, if it were not for the government’s efforts & the progress they've made to protect their own people & the world," he said in a tweet.

00:28 Authorities in the city of Tianjin, which borders Beijing, ordered schools and non-essential companies to stay closed until further notice to curb the spread of the virus. The northern Chinese city has a population of about 15 million people. Officials confirmed 32 residents were infected with the coronavirus.

00:24 The coronavirus epidemic has already rattled the global economy. Companies around the world fear facing billions in losses due to disrupted supply chains and the lack of Chinese customers. In Paris, tour operators are hit by mass cancelations as Chinese tourists are forced to stay away.

00:07 The latest number of infected in China is now nearly 11,800, according to Chinese state TV.

22:39 Chinese authorities said 45 people were killed by the virus on Friday, putting the total death toll to 258. This would make the last 24 hours the deadliest since the outbreak started, topping yesterday's record of 38 deaths.

22:33 With some 9,800 confirmed cases, the new virus has already infected more people than the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic which infected less than 8,100 individuals. According to China's statistics, however, coronavirus appears to be proportionately less deadly than SARS. The latest outbreak has killed 258 people, while SARS claimed about 800 lives during its run.

22:23 Spain confirms its first coronavirus case.

22:18 Russia's S7 airline said it would suspend flights to and from China, joining a range of European and US carriers who halted their trips to the Chinese mainland.

The Russian airline will send out charter flights to repatriate Chinese citizens from Russia and vice versa, and all other passengers will get a full refund for their tickets, the company said.

22:06 Stock markets fell again amid coronavirus fears, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (which measures the performance of 30 large companies listed on US stock exchanges) losing some 2.1%. This marks the Dow's biggest daily loss since August. Stock markets in Hong Kong and Tokyo also closed on a low note, albeit with smaller loses.

20:52 The US declares a public health emergency. US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says in a press conference that President Donald Trump will temporarily bar foreign nationals who might carry the virus from entering the US. 

19:50 There are now seven confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany, according to the Bavarian Ministry of Health, though DW is struggling to follow the math. Webasto has reported seven infected employees, two Chinese and five Germans. Webasto says the two Chinese employees have both returned to China and are receiving treatment. Including the infected child of one German employee, that would bring the total of cases currently in Bavaria to six. In any case, we'll keep the office abacus handy.

19:31 Kuwait issues an advisory against traveling to China and calls on Kuwaitis currently there to return. 

19:02 Around 200 Americans have arrived in California from Wuhan, where they will be quarantined on a US airbase in California for the next 14 days, under quarantine orders issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

18:56 The Turkish and Greek factions of the divided island of Cyprus have agreed to meet regularly and communicate on necessary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

"The first priority is the duty to protect the citizens of Cyprus—Greek and Turkish Cypriots," said Anastasiades in a statement.

Currently, there are no reports of the infection on the island. Only Turkey recognizes the legitimacy of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a region in the northern part of the island where 35,000 Turkish troops are located. The southern Republic of Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004. 

18:31 The Bavarian-based employer of the first known coronavirus case in Germany confirmed that two more employees have tested positive for the infection.  

Ina press release, automotive supplier Webasto confirmed that one German and one Chinese employee tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of infected employees to seven, five German and two Chinese employees among them. A child of one of the German employees has also been infected. 

"Both newly infected Webasto employees had close exchange last week with one or more of the five colleagues who tested positive at the beginning of the week," the press release read. "All seven were together in several longer meetings at the headquarters in Stockdorf."

17:41 Fearing that fallout from the coronavirus could affect global oil demand, Russia is pushing for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring forward its next meeting from March to February. 

Analysts and traders predict that the outbreak could cut oil demand by over 250,000 barrels a day and hurt already languishing oil prices

17:10 Experts say as many as 75,800 people may have been infected with the virus. This is according to research modeling done by the University of Hong Kong and published in the international medical journal The Lancet. The study's authors say the lack of detailed information makes it difficult to determine the "true size of the epidemic and its pandemic potential." 

16:37 Beijing is criticizing the US for warning its citizens not to travel to China and encouraging those already there to leave. 

"Certain US officials' words and actions are neither factual nor appropriate," spokesperson for China's Foreign Affairs Ministry Hua Chunying said in a statement. "Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed to go in the opposite way. Certainly not a gesture of goodwill."

The US state department earlier on Friday had issued an official travel advisory discouraging non-essential travel to China. 

16:14 Guatemala's president announces the country is imposing travel restrictions to prevent the infection from entering the country. Anyone who has been to China in the last 15 days will not be allowed to enter the country, President Alejandro Giammattei has said. 

15:59 Screening people arriving from Chinese cities is not an effective way to detect coronavirus. This is according to modeling conducted by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

"Approximately 75% of cases from affected Chinese cities would arrive at their destination in the incubation period and would remain undetected, even if the efficacy of the screening test to detect symptomatic individuals were 80% for both exit and entry screening," said ECDC infectious disease expert Pasi Penttinen. 

The new coronavirus' incubation period is thought to be unusually long, at up to 14 days, during which time people may be contagious despite displaying no symptoms.

15:44 Here is a recap of the numbers:

  • Over 9,800 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed globally.
  • 9,692 of those cases are found on mainland China.
  • All 213 reported deaths from the virus have also been in China, the majority of them in the Hubei province, where the outbreak originated. 

15:32 Iran suspends all flights to China.

15:18 US airline Delta temporarily suspends all flights to China in response to the US elevating a travel advisory. 

15:11 Sweden confirms its first case of coronavirus. In a statement, the country's public health ministry said, "It is a woman who visited the Wuhan area in China and experienced cough symptoms after arriving in Sweden. She is not gravely ill."

14:58 China's ambassador in Geneva Chen Xu says "excessive measures" like border closures are going to far and insists there is "no need for unnecessary panic."

14:44 Canada receives authorization from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to send a flight to Wuhan to evacuate some 200 Canadian citizens located there. 

Relations between China and Canada have been strained since Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested on a flight stopover in Vancouver in 2018. China has since detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation. 

Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke personally with Wang on Thursday night to request approval to send the evacuation flight.  

14:43 The head of the Communist Party in Wuhan has said that the city should have taken measures sooner to contain the virus.

The national and international impact "would have been less" if measures had been implemented sooner, party chief Ma Quiqiang said in a TV broadcast on Friday.

"Right now I'm in a state of guilt, remorse, and self-reproach," he said. 

14:33 A French citizen who was on the plane that evacuated some 180 people from Wuhan has been hospitalized in Marseille with coronavirus symptoms, France's health minister Agnes Buzyn says. 

French citizens arriving in France from Wuhan are seen wearing medical face masks inside a bus.
French citizens returning from Wuhan arrive in France. A bus takes them to accommodation where they will be quarantined to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Image: Reuters/J. P. Pelissier

14:21 Italy declares a national state of emergency. The mechanism, which is fairly common after natural disasters like floods, give regional powers special authorities that speed up the government's ability to react. Two cases of the virus have been confirmed in Italy, two Chinese tourists currently hospitalized in Rome. 

14:19 Russia's deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova announces that Russia will evacuate some of its citizens from China. They will be quarantined upon their return. 

14:18 Polish airline LOT will send a flight to Beijing on Friday to bring back the airline's employees as well as Polish and other EU nationals. The airline had previously announced it was suspending flights to China until February 9 at the earliest, but had said it would cooperate with the Polish government on evacuations. 

Independently, the country's deputy health minister Wademar Kraska said Friday that the government was preparing to evacuate 31 Poles from Wuhan. 

Meanwhile, India bans Chinese exports of protective medical supplies like face masks and clothing.

14:10 Vietnam Airlines announces it, too, is suspending all flights to China. 

14:03 Companies in Beijing will remain closed until February 10 to prevent coronavirus from spreading, Chinese government newspaper Beijing Daily has reported. Utilities providers, medical equipment suppliers, and pharmaceutical companies will remain open, as will supermarkets.   

13:45 The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, told a press conference that the task of containing and preventing the spread of outbreak remains "severe and complex."

Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang
Wuhan Mayor Zhou XianwangImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Zheng Liang

His vice mayor said supplies of masks and other medical resources are still inadequate.

13:43 Japanese authorities have dismissed rumours that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were threatened by the epidemic.

"We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the (International Olympic Committee) 
IOC and relevant organizations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary," organizers said in a statement to DPA news agency.

13:42 Jordan is joining the list of countries evacuating its 70-100 citizens out of Wuhan. It is currently flying a plane out of the city. 

13:41 A charter plane was carrying 83 British citizens and 27 others out of Wuhan has landed in the UK.

13:40 France is saying that one of its citizens that was evacuated from Wuhan is showing symptoms of infection.

13:38 A Chinese court has released a rare admonishment of authorities for their reaction to the outbreak. China's highest court criticized police for cracking down on doctors in Wuhan who supposedly spread "rumours" during the first stages of the outbreak.

The Supreme People's Court said that the doctors may well have been incorrect when they told patients there was a renewed outbreak of SARS, but if they had been allowed to speak then the public may have adopted mitigation measures much earlier. 

"If the public had listened to this 'rumour' at the time, they would have adopted measures such as wearing a mask, strict disinfection and
avoiding going to the wildlife market" in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged in December, the court said. 

13:27 More details on Germany's latest case. The victim is a child of an employee at the same Munich firm where five people were infected, according to the state health ministry.

All of them are in stable condition, the ministry said.

13:21 Russia is reporting its first two cases. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said two Chinese nationals in the Siberian regions of Zabaykalye and Tyumen tested positive and are being held in isolation.

A conductor in a medical face mask stands in the door of a passenger train en route from Beijing to Moscow.
A train conductor stands in the doorway of a passenger train en route from Beijing to Moscow. Russia on Friday suspended rail service between the two countries. Image: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Smirnov

13:16 The European Commission has announced a €10 million ($11.05 million) research grant in relation to the virus.

"We are working to mitigate the consequences of a potential larger spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the European Union," said EU Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. 

The fund should support two to four research projects, with work to start as soon as possible.  It has launched an emergency tender process.

13:13 The German state of Bavaria has confirmed another case of the virus — this time a child.

13:11 German Research Minister Anja Karliczek said she expects a vaccine for coronavirus will emerge within several months.

"If we want to contain this illness then it is good if we have a vaccine in a relatively short time and we assume this will be in a few months," she said.

The announcement came after biopharmaceutical company CureVac AG and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) revealed they were working together to develop a vaccine against the virus.

12:09 Finnish airline Finnair has said it will suspend all flights to and from mainland China from February 6 to February 29. The delayed suspension is to allow customers and crew to be flown home. Flights to Hong Kong are to operate as normal.

12:06 Myanmar authorities turn back a China Southern flight from Guangzhou after a passenger was found to have symptoms compatible with those produced by the coronavirus. The passenger, a Chinese national, was quarantined in hospital on arrival in the commercial capital, Yangon. Two Myanmar nationals who arrived on the plane were also allowed to disembark, but the plane was sent back to Guangzhou with all others on board.

11:59 Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam rejects calls by medical staff to close the border with mainland China (see entry at 07:53

 11:29 French TV station BFM reports that the first plane bringing back French nationals from coronavirus-hit regions of China has landed in France.

11:01 The Chinese Embassy in Japan asks Spring Airlines, a carrier based in Shanghai, to bring home Wuhan residents stranded in Japan on chartered flights. The first is scheduled for Saturday, according to the embassy website.

10:55: Italian government declares state of emergency to enable faster action on curbing spread of coronavirus.

10:55 German military plane leaves Cologne for the Chinese city of Wuhan on a mission to evacuate more than 100 people, including dozens of German citizens.. The evacuees, who will arrive back in Germany on Saturday, will be kept in quarantine at a military site for two weeks, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He said the plane would also deliver aid to Chinese authorities, including 10,000 protective suits.

French citizens settle aboard the evacuation plane
Nearly 200 French nationals left Wuhan on a special flight and have since arrived to FranceImage: Getty Images/AFP/H. Retamal

10:52 World Health Organization says there is a "huge reason to keep official border crossings open" to avoid people entering irregularly and thus not being checked for symptoms. WHO spokesman Christian Lindemeier said, however, that countries had a sovereign right to take steps to protect their citizens.

10:16 The Chinese envoy to the UN in Vienna says there are now 9,809 confirmed coronavirus cases in China, with 213 deaths.

10:11 Singapore says it is suspending entry to travelers who have recently visited China and also suspending visas for Chinese passport holders.

10:02 Saudi Arabia advises against traveling to China.

09:53 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says foreigners who have visited China's Hubei province in the past two weeks will be banned from entering Japan for the time being.

09:35 The president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, Jörg Wüttke, tells DW that the business sector could face a slowdown in the first quarter of the year due to measures taken by companies and countries to combat the coronavirus.

09:30 England's chief medical officer confirms two cases of coronavirus in the UK. He says they are members of the same family.

09:16 A health official in Thailand confirms first case of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.

09:09 Oman joins the countries advising against nonessential travel to China because of the virus.

09:06 DW journalist Cherie Chan reports that Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced a 91% reduction in the number of Chinese entering Hong Kong since border points were partially closed on Thursday.Schools in Hong Kong have been suspended till March 2.

09:01 The World Health Organization in Uganda reminds the general public of the best ways of protecting oneself against the coronavirus and similar infections.

08:49 Facebook says it will remove misinformation about the coronavirus from the platform, saying such content could lead to "physical harm." Among the false remedies being propagated on the internet is the suggestion that drinking harmful bleach cures the virus. Medical authorities have urgently warned against following this dangerous and potentially lethal advice.

08:37 Turkish Airlines becomes the latest carrier to suspend flights to and from mainland China. The suspension is to remain in place till February 9.

08:24 Mongolia says it is closing all ports of entry from China until March 2 to prevent the spread of the virus.

08:08 Pakistani authorities say they are suspending all flights to China.

Coronavirus crisis

07:53 Hong Kong professionals, including medical staff and flight attendants, hold street protests demanding that the government close off the border to mainland China to stop the spread of the virus.

06:47 Rwandair suspends flights to China.

06:45 How is it transmitted? What are the symptoms? And which precautionary measures are recommended to stop it spreading? DW explains all you need to know about the coronavirus.

06:25 Vietnam introduces temporary ban on issuing travel visas to Chinese tourists after confirmation that three Vietnamese nations had contracted the coronavirus from China.

WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency

06:15 South Korea's Health Ministry says the country's staple dish, kimchi, will not provide protection against the new coronavirus. During the SARS epidemic of 2003, in a bid to explain the country's relatively low infection rate, some South Korean researchers had said kimchi might have helped to ward off the disease.

05:57 Kenya Airways suspends all flight to China until further notice. Air France, KLM SA, British Airways, Germany's Lufthansa and the US' Virgin Atlantic have already stopped flying to mainland China. Other airlines have cut flights.

05:55 Japan urges its citizens not to travel to China unless absolutely necessary, joining the growing list of countries issuing such travel advisories. Japan had already advised against all travel to the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province. It has 14 confirmed cases of the disease.

05:50 Good morning and welcome to our live blog on world events connected with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Authorities across the world have been implementing measures to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200 people in China and infected more than 10,000 since it broke out in China's Hubei province in December. The WHO has declared the outbreak a global emergency.

Read more: What constitutes an international public health emergency?

The United States on Thursday told Americans not to travel to China, while Germany has warned its citizens against traveling to Hubei and recommended postponing any nonessential travel to China.

Several airlines have also suspended flights to China.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


Kristie Pladson
Kristie Pladson Business reporter, editor and moderator with a focus on technology and German economy.@bizzyjourno