China vows to beat “devil” virus as countries rush to evacuate citizens

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Beijing (Reuters) – President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that China was sure of defeating a “devil” coronavirus that has killed 106 people, but international alarm was rising as the outbreak spread across the world.

The United States said it was expanding screening of arrivals from China from five to 20 airports and would consider imposing further travel curbs.

“All options for dealing with infectious disease spread have to be on the table, including travel restrictions,” said U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar.

From France to Japan, governments were organising evacuations, while Hong Kong – scene of anti-China unrest for months – planned to suspend rail and ferry links with the mainland.

Among countries pulling nationals out of Wuhan, the central Chinese city of 11 million where the outbreak started, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said a chartered plane would pick up its consular staff on Wednesday. The European Commission said it would help fund two aircraft to fly EU citizens home, with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi met in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus and possible evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.

“The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide,” state television quoted Xi as saying.

“China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes the WHO participation in virus prevention … China is confident of winning the battle against the virus.”

The UN agency said later that China had agreed that the WHO can send a team of international experts “as soon as possible” to increase understanding of the virus and guide the global response.

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