ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will evacuate 32 citizens and their families from China’s Wuhan, at the epicenter of a new virus outbreak, in the coming days, the country’s ambassador to China said on Wednesday as the death toll rose to 132.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is confident in China’s ability to contain the coronavirus, but concerns are mounting as its health authorities said the number of confirmed cases had jumped by 1,459 to 5,974.
The United States and Japan flew its citizens out of Wuhan on Wednesday.
Speaking to broadcaster NTV, Ambassador Emin Onen said Turkey had made the necessary applications to Chinese officials to evacuate the 32 citizens, adding that none of them had been diagnosed with the virus.
“We are in touch with all our citizens,” Onen said. “We will bring them back as soon as possible…with a medical or similarly-equipped plane. There will be certain quarantine conditions when they land in Turkey.”
The number of cases in China now exceeds its tally from 2002 and 2003 when 5,327 people were infected with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed about 800 people around the world.
While some experts believe the new strain, known as “2019-nCoV”, is not as deadly as SARS, it has created alarm because it is spreading quickly and key features are still unknown, including its lethality.
The government has said there are no known cases of the virus in Turkey and authorities are using thermal cameras at airports and other measures. Turkish Airlines has suspended flights to Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer