Europe evacuates citizens from China amid virus fears

LISBON, Portugal — European countries step up efforts to contain the virus sweeping through central China, sending a chartered plane there to evacuate hundreds of citizens, scrapping more commercial flights to Chinese destinations and closing Russia’s long border with the Asian giant.

Italian authorities keep some 7,000 people on board a cruise ship in the Mediterranean for nearly a day while they check one passenger for a possible infection.

An A380 evacuation flight takes off Thursday morning from a former Portuguese military airport at Beja, southeast of Lisbon, carrying just its pilots and crew.

Captain Antonios Efthymiou says the flight is going first to Paris to pick up a team of doctors and extra crew, before heading to Hanoi and then China. He tells Portuguese media it will bring back about 350 Europeans. He says the crew will take special medical precautions but does not elaborate.

China has reported 170 deaths and at least 7,800 infections have been confirmed worldwide from the virus that emerged last month in the central city of Wuhan. Sports, transport and cultural events have been canceled across the country and over 50 million people are under a government lockdown in central China.

In Europe, there have been just 10 confirmed cases of the virus so far: five in France, four in Germany and one in Finland.

— AP

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