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UK, France urge citizens out of China; Belgium sees 1st case

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In this Feb. 2, 2020, photo, Polish military personnel wearing protective suits talk with evacuees from Wuhan, China, after their arrival at an airport in Marseilles, France. China said Tuesday the number of infections from a new virus surpassed 20,000 as medical workers and patients arrived at a new hospital and President Xi Jinping said “we have launched a people’s war of prevention of the epidemic.” (AP Photo/Arek Rataj)

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LONDON (AP) — Britain on Tuesday urged all of its citizens in China to leave the country because of the outbreak of a respiratory illness from a new virus, while Belgium became the latest nation to announce a confirmed case.

An updated advisory issued by the U.K. Foreign Office said that while commercial flights remained available from most of mainland China, travel restrictions introduced by the Chinese government to contain the epidemic meant “it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks.

“If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so,” the advisory said.

France also issued an advisory, warning against any non-essential travel to China and suggesting that French citizens who were already there return home.

More than 20,400 people have been infected with the virus in China and 425 have died. Two other people have died in the Philippines and Hong Kong and 20 other nations have reported cases.

Belgium, meanwhile, reported its first case of the coronavirus, found in one of the nine citizens who were repatriated from Wuhan over the weekend. The Belgian Health Ministry said the infected individual was in good health and didn’t show any symptoms of the disease. The person was taken to a special hospital for further care while the others remained under observation.

Germany confirmed two more cases of the virus: one an employee of an auto parts company that a Chinese colleague visited two weeks ago and the other in a child of an infected company employee who previously had another child test positive.

In all, Europe had 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday: Germany has 12; France six; Russia, Italy and the U.K have two each and Finland, Sweden, Spain and Belgium have one each.

The European Union’s medicines agency said it was taking action to “accelerate the development and availability” of medicines to treat and prevent the virus.

The Amsterdam-based agency is responsible for evaluating, supervising and monitoring medicines in the 27-nation bloc.

It said in a statement that while there are currently no medicines authorized to detect, treat of prevent infections with the new virus it is “ready to support medicine developers with all available regulatory tools to advance and expedite the development of effective measures to fight and prevent the spread of this virus.”

Italy could lose up to 4.5 billion euros ($4.97 billion) in tourism revenue this year if coronavirus fears keep visitors away, leading polling agency Demoskopika said in a study released Tuesday. The amount represents around 5% of tourism-generated contribution to Italy’s gross domestic product.

Fueling those fears, four regional Italian governors from the anti-migrant League party formally asked the health ministry to require school-age children from China to undergo 14 days of observation before being allowed back to class.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, however, demanded an end to such discriminatory reactions and the Italy’s National Health Institute insisted that its precautionary measures for school-age children were sufficient.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the first of five military transport aircraft assigned to airlift Russians left Wuhan on Tuesday night with 80 evacuees. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said earlier in the day that 132 Russians and 15 citizens of other ex-Soviet nations in all would be flown out of Wuhan and quarantined in southwestern Siberia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Chinese authorities to work hard to halt the outbreak.

“I hope that our Chinese friends will overcome the difficult situation with honor. We all want results of the fight against the new virus to be as efficient and quick as possible,” Putin said Tuesday at a meeting with students and researchers.

Dr. David Heymann, who led the World Health Organization’s response to the SARS outbreak, said it’s too early to tell when the virus outbreak will peak but that it appears the disease is still on the increase. He said the exponential spike in China’s caseload in recent days was partly attributable to the fact that Chinese officials expanded their search to include milder cases, not only people with pneumonia.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of the China virus outbreak at: https://www.apnews.com/VirusOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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