Accra, Jan. 30, (UPI/GNA) - The death toll in China from the new coronavirus climbed to 170 Thursday after 38 people died from the day before as foreign governments attempt to airlift their citizens from the stricken country.
The United States and Japan have evacuated hundreds of nationals from Wuhan while Britain, New Zealand and Australia are working to repatriate their citizens from the city of 11 million that has been under lockdown for nearly a week.
About 200 Britons were about to depart from Wuhan before the plan was delayed on Thursday as they were not given Chinese approval to leave. They were to be taken to a National Health Services facility in Oxfordshire.
"We are also working urgently to finalize arrangements for an assisted departure from Hubei Province for British nationals this week and are in contact with people in Hubei to ensure they register their interest and that we can keep them updated," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for Health and Social Care, said in a tweet that they are working to return British nationals from Wuhan and that anyone who does return will be placed in isolation for 14 days.
"Public safety is the top priority," he said.
Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand are working to repatriate hundreds of their citizens from China, and their officials were scheduled to meet Thursday in Wuhan to orchestrate their departure.
Some 600 Australians and 100 New Zealanders are believed to be in Wuhan, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan Wednesday to fly them to Christmas Island, where they would be quarantined for up to two weeks.
Chineses health officials said Thursday the number of infected in China surged to 7,766 confirmed cases, an increase of nearly 1,800 cases from Wednesday, with Tibet recording its first confirmed case. South Korea and Vietnam recorded new cases, and India and the Philippines reported their first.
More than 6,000 vacationers are being held on an Italian cruise ship as two Chinese passengers are tested for the coronavirus. British Airways has suspended all flights from Britain to China.
Of the 170 deaths, 162 were reported in Hubei Province with 129 occurring in the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak of the coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCov, is believed to have originated in December.
The disease has spread to at least 15 countries totaling nearly 80 confirmed cases with Thailand accounting for the highest number of 14.
The news comes as the World Health Organization is to hold its second emergency committee on the coronavirus on Thursday to decide whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The committee first convened last week when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the outbreak did not constitute an international concern.
"Make no mistake," he said at that time. "This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one."