Jan 30, 2020 - World

State Department authorizes personnel to evacuate China due to coronavirus

A charter plane lands in California carrying U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan. Photo: Matt Hartman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department has placed U.S. diplomatic staff and their families in China on "authorized departure," meaning they are permitted to leave the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Driving the news: Approximately 210 U.S. citizens were evacuated Wednesday from Wuhan, where the outbreak began and has spread most widely. The virus has killed at least 171 people in China and infected over 8,000, and was declared a Global Health Emergency on Thursday by the World Health Organization.

A State Department spokesperson told Axios the "authorized departure" notice applied to "all non-emergency U.S. government employees at the U.S. 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 official said, noting that consulate staff in Wuhan are under "ordered departure."
  • "The Department of State made the decision to put the U.S. 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 official said.
  • "The U.S. Embassy and consulates general across China will continue to provide consular services, as resources allow."

Between the lines: The decision is one step down from an order for personnel to leave the country.

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Why it matters: Ghebreyesus said the organization made the declaration not because of the outbreak in China, but out of fear it could spread to countries that do not have the capacity to contain it. The threat is WHO’s highest alert level.

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U.S. issues "do not travel" advisory for China

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Why it matters: The U.S. now considers travel to China as dangerous as going to North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia because of the coronavirus.

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CDC confirms 12th coronavirus case in the U.S.

People wear facemasks in Beijing, China, Feb. 5. Photo: Roman Balandin\TASS via Getty Images

An adult in Wisconsin with a history of travel to Beijing, China, has contracted the coronavirus, the state health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Wednesday.

What's happening: The individual, who is currently isolated at home, "was exposed to known cases" of 2019-nCoV while in China. Immediate health risk to the general public in Wisconsin is low, the state health department said.

Go deeper: Coronavirus death toll reaches 494