China’s president Xi Jinping warns killer coronavirus is accelerating as doctor dies and US evacuates its citizens from hotspot Wuhan

Medical staff members wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, walk at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in China

The deadly coronavirus is ‘accelerating’ and China is facing a ‘grave situation’, the country’s president has said – as at least one doctor has died from the virus and the US prepares to evacuate citizens from crisis-hit Wuhan. 

The virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, already on lockdown and where the virus is thought to have originated, banned most vehicle use downtown and Hong Kong said it would close schools for two weeks as authorities scramble to stop the spread of an illness that has infected more than 1,300 people and killed 41. 

Photos from inside the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan show medical workers caring for critically-ill patients this week

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke following an emergency government meeting to warn that the spread of the killer virus is worsening, as video emerged showing medics collapsing at hospitals in the capital of central China’s Hubei province as the coronavirus outbreak continues to move across the world.

‘Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus […] it is necessary to strengthen the centralised and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,’ Xi said, according to official news agency Xinhua.

It comes as Liang Wudong, 62, who had been treating patients in Wuhan, died from the virus this morning, state-run China Global Television Network reported.

Wudong, who was retired but drafted in to help with the outbreak, died after time spent treating patients. It was also reported that another doctor, Jiang Jijun, has died from a heart attack while treating the afflicted. 

It is unknown if the infectious disease specialist, who has treated bird flu and influenza A and tuberculosis over the years, died as a result of coronavirus or from exhaustion.  

And the US, which has around 1,000 citizens in the city, is set to evacuate those it knows about – including diplomats – on a 230 seater charter flight tomorrow. 

The US government won approval for the operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reports. The British Foreign Ministry is yet to confirm whether it will do the same.

Also today, distressing video has emerged showing a doctor collapsing on the floor as footage revealed the full scale of panic inside Wuhan hospitals, with crowded corridors and patients slumped on the floor.

Video shows staff shouting at patients to calm themselves as medics desperately try to contain the situation. Some workers are reported to be wearing diapers as they don’t have time to use the toilet amid the panic.

Some 56 million people are now subject to restrictions on their movement as authorities expand travel bans in central Hubei province, now affecting 18 cities.    

Hong Kong on Saturday declared a new coronavirus outbreak as an ’emergency’ – the city’s highest warning tier – as authorities ramped up measures to reduce the risk of further infections. The announcement came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration’s response to the crisis (pictured, health surveillance officers use temperature scanner to monitor passengers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport in today)

Other shocking developments in the outbreak today include: 

  • China’s National Health Commission said it had formed six medical teams totalling 1,230 medical staff to help  
  • Videos from inside Chinese hospitals show patients crammed into overcrowded corridors and laid on the floor   
  • Global airports have stepped up screening of passengers from China, though some have questioned its worth
  • China says virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact, mostly affecting the frail and old 
  • Shanghai has shut all cinemas until 30 January in a desperate bid to try and stop the spread of the killer virus
  • Wuhan will impose ban on non-essential vehicles in downtown area from January 26 to contain virus outbreak
  • Hong Kong declares a virus emergency announcing a series of measures to limit city’s links with mainland China
  • Starbucks said it was closing all outlets in Hubei province, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five cities
  • Yum China Holdings Inc said it has temporarily closed some of its KFC and Pizza Hut stores in Wuhan as a result
  • All overseas group tour services, including hotel and plane bookings, from Chinese travel firms to be suspende
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