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Ukraine Sending Plane To Evacuate Citizens From China As Virus Deaths Exceed 1,800

A medical worker in a protective suit takes a break during her night shift at a community health service center in Wuhan.
A medical worker in a protective suit takes a break during her night shift at a community health service center in Wuhan.

KYIV -- Ukraine on February 18 said it plans to send a plane to China and evacuate 49 of its citizens and 25 foreign nationals amid the coronavirus outbreak, as Beijing reported 1,886 new cases and 98 more deaths.

The update raised the number of deaths in mainland China to almost 1,900 and the total confirmed cases to almost 72,500.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian Deputy Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said the passengers will be airlifted from Wuhan city in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Only people without symptoms of the COVID-2019 virus will be allowed to board, Lyashko said.

Lyashko said they will be quarantined for 14 days upon their arrival in Kyiv on February 19.

“There’s no need to panic. We’ll bring only healthy people to Ukraine,” the health minister said.

Ukraine’s embassy in China first announced an evacuation would take place on February 11; it was postponed a second time over the past seven days.

No plans are in place to evacuate the 25 Ukrainian passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is quarantined at a Japanese port, Lyashko said.

“Right now, we’re focused on issues of evacuating citizens in the quarantined zone [in China]. This is a top priority. Further on, we will revisit the question of possibly evacuating those citizens [aboard the cruise ship],” he said.

A 25-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman who worked in the kitchen of the cruise ship have tested positive for the infection, along with 452 other passengers.

A total of 72,436 infection cases have been reported in mainland China as of February 17, the National Health Commission said in its daily update the following day. There have been a total of 1,868 fatalities in the country.

Chinese officials on February 17 published the first details on nearly 45,000 cases of the coronavirus, saying more than 80 percent have been mild and that the number of new infections seemed to be falling since early this month. The sick and elderly are most at risk.

The virus causes severe symptoms such as pneumonia in 14 percent of them and critical illness in 5 percent. The mortality rate for these confirmed cases is 2.3 percent.

Chinese authorities said that despite strict rules on the use of masks and safety suits, medical workers have been among the victims.

On February 18, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said the 51-year-old director of Wuhan's Wuchang Hospital, Liu Zhiming, had died of COVID-19.

Outside of China, there have been about 900 infections reported and four deaths in nearly 30 locations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against a global overreaction to the epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations, and concerns about cruise ship travel.

"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

With reporting by Deutsche Welle, AP, and Hromadske
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