Coronavirus: 'Whole world needs to be on alert' as death toll hits 170

30 January 2020, 06:26

The WHO will assess the virus again on Thursday
The WHO will assess the virus again on Thursday. Picture: PA

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to 170, with 7,711 cases reported within the country, authorities in Beijing say.

The increase in deaths and infections comes as the World Health Organisation prepares to meet on Thursday, warning the "whole world needs to be on alert" over the new coronavirus outbreak as it reconsiders whether to declare a global health emergency.

Officials have also expressed concern that the coronavirus is spreading between people outside China.

Meanwhile, a planned flight to bring British nationals back to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan on Thursday has been put on hold.

A flight that was due to bring 200 British nationals back from Wuhan - at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - has been unable to take off
A flight that was due to bring 200 British nationals back from Wuhan - at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - has been unable to take off. Picture: PA

The British Government had anticipated flying around 200 UK citizens out of the country but it is understood Chinese officials have not yet granted permission for the chartered flight to depart.

The Foreign Office said it was working to secure the flight as soon as possible, with the UK nationals set to be quarantined for two weeks when they arrive back in the country.

Yvonne Griffiths, who is a Birmingham City University lecturer trapped in Wuhan, told LBC News she was already expecting to be on a flight home but had received a call from the UK Foreign Office announcing the rescue flight would probably take place on Friday morning.

Mrs Griffiths said she had been told upon her arrival back in the UK she had been told all those on the flight would be taken to an "NHS facility" in the North of England and place in "supported isolation," she said trapped Brits had been given no information on conditions.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK. A number of countries' flights have been unable to take off as planned.

"We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.

"We remain in close contact with the Chinese authorities and conversations are ongoing at all levels."

Chinese citizens are temperature checked at checkpoints
Chinese citizens are temperature checked at checkpoints. Picture: PA

Brits returning from Wuhan will be put in quarantine for 14 days and officials are looking at taking passengers to a military base once they arrive home, the Department of Health said.

A Downing Street source said it was expecting about 200 British nationals to be returned from Wuhan and they had agreed to be placed in "assisted isolation".

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) emergencies chief told reporters that China was taking "extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge" posed by the outbreak.

Dr Michael Ryan spoke at a news conference after returning from a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government leaders.

He said the epidemic remains centred in the city of Wuhan and in Hubei province but that "information is being updated and is changing by the hour".

Mr Ryan said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China - in Japan, Germany and Vietnam - were part of the reason the UN health agency's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has reconvened an expert committee to meet on Thursday. It will assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

He said: "The whole world needs to be on alert now, the whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come, either from the original epicentre or from other epicentres that become established."

The first cases in the Middle East have been confirmed as a family-of-four from Wuhan that was visiting the United Arab Emirates.

Australia and Singapore are among the countries reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. The vast majority are people who came from Wuhan.