France and other countries have said they are preparing to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of a deadly virus outbreak, as the number of fatalities in China rose to 80 on Monday.
Chinese authorities said the number of infected individuals stands at over 2,700.
China has scrambled to contain the new coronavirus and implemented radical travel restrictions in a bid to stop the infectious disease from spreading. The central Chinese province of Hubei has been put on lockdown, including the city of Wuhan, affecting 56 million residents during Lunar New Year, the busiest travel period in the country.
No fatalities have been reported outside of China.
Anxious foreigners wait
France's Health Minister Agnes Buzyn on Sunday said French citizens would also be evacuated from the Wuhan area.
"French citizens will be repatriated by airplane to France, with the agreement of Chinese authorities. This will take place midweek," she said.
France is among a host of countries that announced plans to evacuate its citizens, including Italy, Japan, Australia and the US.
Paris anticipates it will repatriate a few hundred of its citizens living in the Wuhan area. The individuals will then be required to spend 14 days in quarantine.
French automaker PSA Group said it will evacuate its employees in Wuhan, place them under quarantine, and then bring them to France.
Sri Lanka said Sunday it would fly back 150 students from China in the next two days.
"We want to be evacuated as soon as possible, because either the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us," Mashal Jamalzai, an Afghan student at Central China Normal University, said to AFP news agency.
Read more: China: Coronavirus fears put damper on Lunar New Year
Coronavirus difficult to detect
Buzyn on Sunday said any decision to ban flights from China would have to be implemented by the European Union. The health minister also rebuffed calls to screen the temperatures of passengers flying in from China, saying the flu-like symptoms can emerge later.
"Proof is that the three patients with confirmed coronavirus in France would not have been spotted with a temperature scan. They all arrived here without a fever and developed symptoms of the illness later," she said.
France has three confirmed cases of the deadly virus within its borders.
Chinese officials have said the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.
Read more: Coronavirus reaches Europe as France confirms 3 cases
US on alert
US officials on Sunday said five people were infected with the virus. The rise came after two new cases were confirmed the same day, one in Los Angeles County in California and the other in Arizona.
Officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services said the Maricopa County patient was not severely ill and was in isolation at home.
The other victim recognized he was feeling unwell when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. "Everything worked as it should," said Dr. Sharon Balter from the LA County Department of Public Health.
"The patient presented for care, the patient was immediately transported to a hospital, the patient has remained in the hospital."
jsi/stb (Reuters, AFP, AP)
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