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State Department Authorizes Evacuation of Diplomats From China Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

© REUTERS / CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINSA woman wearing a face mask and goggles uses an escalator near Beijing Railway Station
A woman wearing a face mask and goggles uses an escalator near Beijing Railway Station - Sputnik International
World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Thursday a pubic health emergency of international concern over the outbreak of coronavirus in China that has already left 170 people dead and almost 8,000 infected globally.

The US Department of State placed American non-emergency diplomatic staffers and their families in China on the so-called "authorized departure", which enables them to leave the virus-hit nation voluntary.

According to the Axios media outlet, citing a State Department spokesperson, the notice applies "to all non-emergency US government employees at the US Embassy in Beijing and the Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang".

"As needed, the State Department will review the authorized departure status of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Consulates General in China [...] The Department of State made the decision to put the US Embassy and Consulates General on authorized departure status out of an abundance of caution related to logistical disruptions stemming from restricted transportation and availability of appropriate health care related to the novel coronavirus [...] The US Embassy and Consulates General across China will continue to provide consular services, as resources allow", the spokesperson said, cited by Axios.

According to the media report, the US consulate staff in Wuhan are under "ordered departure".

The "authorized departure" notice is one step down from an order for personnel to leave the country.

People hoard bottles of alcohol after the Philippine government confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in the country, in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 30, 2020 - Sputnik International
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The novel strain of coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. The outbreak has since spread within China and beyond to at least 18 other countries.

Delta, United and American Airlines have temporarily suspended the number of flights between the United States and China due to the outbreak.

A US government-chartered plane on Wednesday landed in Riverside, California from the Chinese city of Wuhan with 201 American diplomats and civilians. All evacuees were checked for signs of sickness during a refueling stop in Alaska.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected on Thursday the first isolated case of human-to-human transmission of the dangerous coronavirus within the United States.

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