U.S. plans to evacuate citizens from coronavirus epicenter as deaths spike

The number of people known to have died from the new coronavirus in China jumped over 24 hours as U.S. officials prepared to evacuate Americans from the locked-down epicenter of the epidemic.

On Tuesday, the death toll stood at 106 — up from 80 a day earlier — according to officials at China’s National Health Commission.

The number of cases has also spiked to 4,515 — up from 2,744 on Monday — of which 976 are considered severe.

As Wuhan, the city where the outbreak is believed to have originated, remained on lockdown to contain the virus, the State Department said it was sending a chartered flight to take back U.S. government personnel stationed in the city.

A State Department official told NBC News that as space is available on the plane, seats will also be offered to some private U.S. citizens, with priority being given to those who are most at risk of contracting the virus if they remain in Wuhan.

The plane, bound for Ontario, California, is expected to leave Wuhan on Wednesday morning local time.

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China coronavirus outbreak spreads across regions
A traveler wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A girl wearing a face mask sits among suitcases at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Travelers wearing face masks gather at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a novel coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Heightened precautions were being taken in China and elsewhere Tuesday as governments strove to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, which threatens to grow during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Peatones con máscaras de protección en una zona comercial de Tokio, el jueves 16 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Eugene Hoshiko)
Health workers wear protective gear Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003, in Ward E3 of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Hong Kong's New Territories, where 24 patients were quarantined after seven of its health workers developed flu-like symptoms, although none have tested positive for SARS. According to a hospital spokesperson five nurses and two health care assistants working in the hospital's Ward E3 developed symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and fevers on Friday. Hong Kong's health chief, Dr.Yeoh Eng-kiong, said that preliminary test results showed patients' samples did not contain coronavirus that causes SARS and researchers are trying to identify the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Workers monitor screens for fever signs on passengers detected by infrared detectors at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: Chinese travellers wear protective masks as they arrive to board trains at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Travelers wearing protective masks walk outside a railway station in Yichang in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. China has stepped up the measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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Officials in Alaska said the plane will also stop in Anchorage to refuel.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said in a statement that everyone on board will be screened by Chinese and U.S. officials before leaving Wuhan, and no one with symptoms will be allowed to board. The passengers will also be re-screened once in Anchorage, the agency said.

On Tuesday, South Korea and Japan also said they will be sending charter flights to Wuhan to move their citizens out of the city. About 700 South Korean nationals are expected to be evacuated later this week. Japanese officials said they will send their first charter plane to Wuhan Tuesday night.

A number of other nations, including France, Australia and Spain, were also said to have been looking into moving their citizens out of Wuhan.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it did not advocate the evacuation of foreign citizens currently in China, the country’s state news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.

The WHO officials thanked the Chinese government for the “decisive measures” taken to stop the virus, adding that there was “no need to overreact,” according to Xinhua. The WHO said last week the virus was not yet a global health emergency.

Since the outbreak began, China has enforced strict transport restrictions and put more than a dozen cities, inhabited by millions of people, on lockdown.

At present, all provinces and regions in China are affected by the outbreak except the autonomous region of Tibet. As a precaution local authorities have announced that those wishing to enter Tibet will be automatically subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that the U.S. is in very close communication with China concerning the virus.

“Very few cases reported in the U.S., but strongly on watch. We have offered China and President Xi Jinping any help that is necessary,” the president added.

Image: Security personnel wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus at the entrance of subway station in Beijing

The virus has now spread to four continents with new cases emerging outside China every day, including in the U.S. where five cases have been confirmed so far.

Thailand announced plans Tuesday to screen all arrivals from China for symptoms of the coronavirus and confirmed six more infections among such visitors, taking its tally to 14, Reuters reported.

Germany also became the second country in Europe to confirm a case of the coronavirus on Monday.

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