Travelers wearing face masks stand in line inside the departure hall at West Kowloon Station, operated by MTR Corp., in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.
Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The State Department on Thursday advised people planning to visit China to exercise increased caution due to a pneumonia outbreak caused by the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday set the alert level at 2, which urged caution if in the affected area, but escalated that warning as the disease continued to spread, recommending that passengers reconsider traveling to China.
The total number of coronavirus cases in China rose to 634 Thursday as local authorities quarantined at least two major cities and canceled Lunar New Year’s events in Beijing, China state television reported.
Chinese authorities have suspended air and train travel in Wuhan, which is under quarantine.
The virus — which was first diagnosed less than a month ago — has already killed at least 17 people in China and infected roughly 650 people around the world, including firsts in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, according to multiple reports from international and local media. Medical teams have been dispatched to impacted cities and hospitals are asking for donations of essential items including face masks, eye protectors, protective uniforms and sanitizer.
Local authorities in China have quarantined Wuhan and Huanggang, which have a combined population of 17 million, and planned a similar lockdown for Ezhou, a city of 1 million, on Friday. Travel bans were in effect for at least seven cities, including Wuhan where the virus was first flagged to world health officials on Dec. 31.
China is offering to refund domestic flights and train tickets nationwide. An estimated 246,000 travelers arrived in Wuhan either via plane or train on Thursday before all transportation in and out of the city was shut down. The number of people leaving the city is currently unknown.
U.S. health officials began screening passengers flying from China at major international airports this weekend, and confirmed the country’s first case on Tuesday. A Washington state man is quarantined with the virus in a hospital outside of Seattle after flying back from Wuhan, U.S. health authorities said.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.
Correction: The State Department issued the travel warning. An earlier story misidentified the agency that issued the warning.