A worker wearing a hazardous materials suit takes the temperature of a passenger at the entrance to a subway station in Beijing, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. The new virus accelerated its spread in China, and the U.S. Consulate in the epicenter of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, announced Sunday it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

France ponders repatriating citizens from Wuhan amid virus

January 26, 2020 - 9:39 am

PARIS (AP) — The French government was meeting Sunday to decide whether to repatriate some 800 French citizens who are living in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a deadly virus.

Officials will make “decisions on the methods and how we might do that” at gathering later Sunday called by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told LCI TV.

It would be joining other countries planning for evacuations from Wuhan, which is under lockdown by the Chinese government in an attempt to halt the spread of the pneumonia-like virus that has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 people.

The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight on Tuesday.

French hospitals are treating three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and more are likely, officials said. The confirmed cases are all Chinese citizens who recently returned from travels there.

French automaker PSA said Saturday it was evacuating its expatriate employees and their families from Wuhan and quarantining them in another city. It did not elaborate.

French medical teams on Sunday began meeting passengers arriving on flights from China at Paris' Charles de Gaulle and other airports, a new effort to catch possible cases early on.

France has decided not to take the temperatures of arriving passengers because it “provides a false sense of safety,” the health minister said. She said in each of France's three confirmed cases, they arrived without a fever.

Buzyn said there was no reason for France's general public to go outside with masks.

She also said a decision to cancel a Chinese New Year's fete in Paris, which has a large Chinese population, was not based on a medical decision. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city's Chinese residents were simply not in the mood for a party, given the spread of the virus.

The Chinese community in Rome said there won't be any public celebrations of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 2 either for the same reason.

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