BEIJING – Evacuating foreign nationals from the epicenter of China’s deadly virus outbreak is unnecessary, the World Health Organization said Tuesday according to Chinese state media.
The health body said it was still “waiting for clarification” about the comments of its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met with Chinese officials in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping to discuss how to contain the infection.
Japan, the United States and several other countries are drawing up plans to safely evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the origin of the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed more than 100 lives across China.
More than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding cities are subject to a lockdown that has halted flights, trains and bus travel in or out of the area.
Tedros’ agency “does not recommend the evacuation of nationals, and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact,” according to a report in the official Xinhua News Agency.
The country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the WHO chief China had “full capability, confidence and resources to overcome the epidemic at an early date,” the report said.
Tedros will fly back to Geneva on Tuesday evening, said spokesman Christian Lindmeier.
The WHO last week stopped short of declaring the outbreak a global emergency, which could have prompted a more aggressive international response such as travel restrictions.
But on Monday it admitted making an error in originally assessing the virus’ worldwide threat as “moderate,” issuing an update late Sunday saying the risk was actually “high at the global level.”
More than 4,500 people across China have contracted the virus according to health authorities, while another 7,000 cases are suspected and awaiting confirmation.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.