Coronavirus: France will evacuate its citizens from China’s Wuhan by airplane, health ministry confirms

French citizens to be airlifted from city at centre of outbreak as death toll hits 56

What do we know about the new form of coronavirus?

France will evacuate its citizens from the Chinese city at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak, the country’s health ministry has confirmed.

Health minister Agnes Buzyn said those French citizens who want to leave Wuhan will be taken on a direct flight to France and then held in quarantine for 14 days.

She told reporters: “French citizens will be repatriated by airplane directly to France, with the agreement of the Chinese authorities. This will take place midweek.”

Ms Buzyn said of the some 800 French citizens who live in the Wuhan area, France expects to repatriate up to a few hundred people.

The US Consulate in Wuhan announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight early this week.

French carmaker PSA, which produces Peugeot and Citroen vehicles, said it will expatriate employees and their families from Wuhan and quarantine them in another city.

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to evacuate about 200 Britons trapped in China following a U-turn on the policy that they should stay put.

Both Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay ducked questions about whether airlifts were planned, saying the government was “looking at all options”.

Behind the scenes, Downing Street has accepted some form of airlift will be necessary if the trapped Britons are to leave, but appeared some way from reaching an agreement with the Chinese authorities.

One source described the issue as being “how” they are evacuated, not whether, and acknowledged the challenge of trying to reach people spread out across a wide area.

The city of Wuhan and the wider Hubei province - where the disease is believed to have originated – have been on lockdown for days as the authorities try to contain the deadly coronavirus.

The newly-identified disease has so far infected more than 2,000 people and killed at least 56.

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