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Coronavirus: Death toll rises as virus spreads to every Chinese region

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The WHO warns the virus holds the potential for a much larger outbreak

The death toll of the coronavirus has risen to 170 and with a confirmed case in Tibet, the virus has now spread to every region in mainland China.

Chinese health authorities have said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.

Infections have also spread to at least 16 other countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.

“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, pointing to Germany, Vietnam and Japan.

“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”

While there is no specific cure or vaccine for the virus, many people who contract it have only mild symptoms and do recover from it.

It can though cause severe acute respiratory infection and lead to death.

Like the similar Sars and influenza viruses, the new coronavirus is thought to be particularly a risk for elderly and people with pre-existing illnesses.

So far, most reported infections and deaths are in China’s Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

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Media captionLike others who’ve been in Hubei province, the BBC’s Stephen McDonell is staying away from the office for two weeks

The city has effectively been sealed off and China has put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus.

People who have been in Hubei Province are also being told by their employers to work from home until it is considered safe for them to return.

International evacuations from Wuhan

Meanwhile, the evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan to their respective countries has begun.

Two flights to Japan have already landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and the passengers are being screened at medical institutions. So far, three have tested positive for the virus, Japanese media report.

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AFP

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Japan’s first flight with evacuees arrived on Wednesday

Around 200 US citizens have also been flown out of Wuhan and are being screened in the US.

Flights to take British and South Korean citizens out of Wuhan have both been delayed after relevant permissions from Chinese authorities did not come through.

According to the UK government, the arriving passengers are to be put in “supported isolation” for 14 days with “all necessary medical attention”.

Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas island, 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland.

Two aircraft are due to fly EU citizens home with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight.

Canada, the Philippines and Malaysia have also announced plans to fly their citizens out of Wuhan.

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