President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday China was sure of defeating a “devil” coronavirus that has killed 106 people, spread across the world and rattled financial markets.
Despite his confidence, alarm was rising, with nations from France to Japan organizing evacuations and Hong Kong – scene of anti-China unrest for months – planning to suspend high-speed rail and ferry links with the mainland.
Among countries pulling nationals out of Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the outbreak started, the United States’ Embassy in Beijing said a chartered plane would take its consulate staff away on Wednesday.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Xi met in Beijing to discuss how to protect Chinese and foreigners in areas affected by the virus and “possible” evacuation alternatives, a WHO spokesman said.
“The virus is a devil and we cannot let the devil hide,” state television quoted Xi as saying.
“China will strengthen international cooperation and welcomes WHO participation in virus prevention. China is confident of winning the battle against the virus.”
Investors are fretting about the impact on the world’s second-biggest economy amid travel bans and an extended Lunar New Year holiday. Global stocks fell again, oil prices hit three-month lows and China’s yuan currency dipped to its weakest in 2020.
A WHO panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to declare an international emergency. Traditionally, the WHO is reluctant to antagonize or ostracize countries dealing with epidemics for fear of undermining future willingness to report cases of infectious disease outbreaks.