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Published on Thursday, January 30, 2020

World Health Organisation holds emergency coronavirus meeting

The World Health Organisation is holding an emergency committee meeting today as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in mainland China passes 7,700.

WHO has not yet declared an international public health emergency, but could do today, when it holds its emergency meeting.

WHO's executive director for health emergencies said on Wednesday: "The whole world needs to be on alert now."

As of early Thursday, there were 170 confirmed deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus in China, and the virus is now more widespread in China than the SARS outbreak in 2003.

SARS killed 349 people in China and almost 200 in Hong Kong.

The spread of the virus has happened much quicker than the SARS outbreak, presumably due to the much better domestic and international travel links.

It has surpassed 7,700 confirmed cases in mainland China alone. Experts still believe there could be many thousands more.

Beyond mainland China there have been more than 100 confirmed coronavirus cases, including in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well as other destinations.

Singapore confirmed three new coronavirus patients on Thursday, taking the total there to 10, while there are seven cases in Australia, five in the US, and four each in South Korea, France, Germany and the UAE.

Canada has three confirmed cases, Vietnam has two, and health officials have reported one case in each of Cambodia, Nepal, Finland, Zambia and Sri Lanka.

Around 200 British nationals are waiting for an evacuation flight back to the UK from Wuhan.

The Foreign Office had expected to have started flying back Britons still stuck in Wuhan in the province of Hubei; however, the aircraft arranged to bring them home has not been able to take off.

It is believed the required permissions from the Chinese authorities are yet to come through.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK."

Once back in the UK, the passengers are expected to be quarantined for 14 days.

The potential losses for the tourism industry is huge. Back in 2003, during the SARS outbreak, the number of outbound trips from China was less than 17 million.

It has now grown to nearly 10 times that amount.

Dozens of major tourism economies are dependent on the big spending inbound China market and others, including the UK, have seen the number of Chinese tourists increase over recent years.


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