The first planes chartered to evacuate foreigners left China on Tuesday, fleeing the coronavirus, the toll of which continues to climb. The 2019 coronavirus-nCoV has left 132 people dead in the country, according to the latest report released on Tuesday evening, authorities announced on Wednesday 29 January. In addition, 1,459 additional cases of contamination have been identified, or 5,974 cases in the country since the start of the epidemic, as of Tuesday. The majority of fatal cases have been reported in Hubei province, the focus of the epidemic, which on Wednesday reported the deaths of an additional 27 patients.

The number of coronavirus infections in Wuhan, a city now cut off from the world, therefore exceeds that of SARS, which raged in the country in 2002-2003. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, also a coronavirus, had infected 5,327 people in mainland China, and caused 349 deaths in the country.

Japan was the first country to repatriate its nationals, who number 650 in Hubei province. Departing from Wuhan, a plane with about 200 of them landed in Tokyo on Wednesday morning. The authorities do not plan to quarantine them upon arrival.

A French plane on Thursday

The United States also announced that a plane sent to Wuhan to evacuate the staff of their consulate in this city as well as other American nationals had taken off Wednesday.

France, for its part, said on Tuesday that it would send a plane that will land in Wuhan on Thursday in order to bring back the first French returnees "probably Friday". These people will be subject to a quarantine of 14 days upon their return, said the French Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn. The European Commission said a second plane would take off "later in the week" to repatriate at least 350 Europeans, including 250 French.

A fourth patient in France

Four additional cases of infection were announced Tuesday in Bavaria, in southwest Germany. Local health authorities said that one of the patients had been infected by another person on German soil itself, which represents the first transmission of the virus identified on European soil.

French authorities had previously reported on Tuesday a fourth patient with the new coronavirus in the country, an elderly Chinese tourist, originally from Hubei, who was in "severe clinical condition" in a Paris hospital.

A case of transmission has also been identified in Japan, that of a Japanese 60-year-old who had never visited China but had transported tourists from Wuhan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday the dispatch "as soon as possible" to China of international experts to pool knowledge on the virus and provide a "global response".

"We will not allow the demon to hide," assured President Xi Jinping, while welcoming WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to Beijing. A few hours later, the United States, however, called on China to "more cooperation and transparency", "the most important steps to take for a more effective response".

With AFP and Reuters

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