Britain and China will work on a possible evacuation of UK citizens from Hubei province in the next few days, Sky News understands.
It comes as China said 106 people have now died due the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, with more 4,515 confirmed cases across the country.
Both numbers rose dramatically in the latest update from the National Health Commission, with most of those affected hailing from the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak.
There are believed to be about 300 UK citizens still in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, but the Foreign Office will work to evacuate the area in days, if not sooner.
Image: People wearing face masks walk at the Tiananmen Gate
Image: Many people in Beijing are wearing protective masks
Image: Beijing is among the cities where deaths have been reported
Uncertainty remains over how dangerous the virus is and how easily it spreads between humans, but cases have been confirmed in countries across Asia, North America and Europe – most recently Germany.
Thailand and Hong Kong have reported eight cases each, there are five each in the US, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Macau, four in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, three in France, and two in Vietnam and Canada.
Germany, Sri Lanka and Nepal all have one confirmed case, but there have been no fatalities outside China.
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Chinese authorities had warned on Monday that the virus, believed to have originated from an animal market in Wuhan, was getting stronger and that they were unclear on its potential to mutate.
Governments around the world are warning people to avoid travel to Wuhan and some are cracking down on arrivals from the city, while the Philippines has issued a temporary blanket ban on tourist visas for Chinese nationals.
There have been no confirmed cases in the UK yet, but people who have arrived from Wuhan recently are being urged to “self-isolate”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that any travellers who have returned in the last two weeks should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people – and contact the NHS 111 service.
Image: Wuhan is in lockdown because of the outbreak
Image: Nobody can leave or enter the city at the moment
But for those Britons who still are in Wuhan, they remain uncertain of how they can get back home.
Up to 300 UK citizens are believed to be stuck in the city, as local authorities have closed all transport hubs including airports and railway stations, and many have expressed anger at the UK government over its response.
Govt update on UK response to virus
Despite spreading outside China, the World Health Organisation has not classified the virus as a global emergency.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been criticised for his response to the outbreak in refusing to visit Wuhan, instead sending the premier Li Keqiang, but an enormous hospital is scheduled to open in the city within days.
Building work only began last week in response to the outbreak, but is already almost finished.
Image: People wearing masks on the train in Hong Kong
Image: And in Tokyo in Japan
China responded similarly to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002 and 2003, which eventually killed nearly 800 people around the world.
As well as building a hospital, China has also shut down several cities including Wuhan and severe travel restrictions have been put in place in a number of others.
Image: China has warned that the virus is getting stronger
Image: There is a new hospital being built in Wuhan
In Wuhan, urban transport is shut and outgoing flights suspended, public transport is suspended in the major steelmaking city of Tangshan, and Beijing has put most bus services to Hebei province on hold.
Aside from public health, the coronavirus is also having an impact on the markets – the FTSE 100 saw nearly £44bn wiped off the value of its constituent companies on Monday.
Source : Sky News