SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — San Francisco officials Monday said a planned airlift of State Department personnel out of Wuhan, China, has had its route changed from a landing in the Bay Area to a touchdown in Ontario.
Ivar Satero, the director of San Francisco International Airport, said the current information on the flight has it leaving Wuhan, where an outbreak of the Coronavirus has forced a lockdown of the city, landing in Anchorage and then finally Ontario.
“We are also monitoring the State Department flight out of Wuhan,” he told reporters. “The latest information we have is that flight will arrive in the U.S. via Anchorage and then it will make it’s way to Ontario (in Southern California).”
“With that flight there will be three health checks along the way. The first health check will be by Chinese officials of passengers boarding the plane. The second check will be by U.S. officials on the aircraft that flew into Wuhan on that flight. (They) will do a second health check before departing and then there will be a third check upon arrival of that flight in Anchorage before allowing it entry into the U.S. It will then be cleared to fly to Ontario.”
Satero added that all commercial flights between San Francisco and Wuhan have been suspended but that CDC health officials will be remaining at SFO in case passengers arriving on other flights displaying signs of the illness.
While two cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in Southern California, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said there were no confirmed cases yet in San Francisco, but health officials were well prepared to respond if there were.
Concerned was raised locally on Sunday when the State Department first announced its Wuhan evacuation flight.
“We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020 and proceeding directly to San Francisco,” the State Department statement read.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said that in the event there are not enough seats on the Wuhan flight, priority would be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus.”
Also on Sunday, China’s health minister said his country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
Ma Xiaowei declined to estimate how long it would take to bring the situation under control, but said travel restrictions and other strict measures should bring results “at the lowest cost and fastest speed.”
President Xi Jinping has called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping up efforts to restrict travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to the city at the center of the crisis, Wuhan, which remains on lockdown with no flights, trains or buses in or out.
The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China and killed nearly 800 as it spread around the world in 2002 and 2003. Its spread has come amid China’s busiest travel period of the year, when millions crisscross the country or head abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday.
The government said early Monday the death toll had risen to 106, with over 4,500 confirmed cases.
The National Health Commission said 769 new cases were confirmed in the 24 hours through midnight Sunday.
The government also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao. Small numbers of cases have been found in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia.
The U.S. has confirmed cases in Washington state, Chicago, Southern California and Arizona. Canada said it discovered its first case, a man in his 50s who was in Wuhan before flying to Toronto. Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea each reported one new case Sunday, while Thailand reported three new cases.
French automaker PSA Group said it will evacuate its employees from Wuhan, quarantine them and then bring them to France.
Japan was also making preparations to fly its nationals out of Wuhan.
Chinese travel agencies have been told to halt all group tours, and concern is growing over the potential impact of millions of people traveling back to the cities after the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Thursday.
China’s National Health Commission said anyone traveling from Wuhan is now required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days — the virus’ maximum incubation period.
Beijing has decided to delay the start of classes after the Lunar New Year holiday ends, the official Beijing Daily reported on its website. That will extend to all schools in the capital from kindergartens to universities.
Hong Kong announced similar measures on Saturday and on Sunday two of that territory’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they were closing for the time being.
A proposal to possibly quarantine suspected cases and others at a still-unoccupied public housing complex in the Hong Kong suburb of Fanling sparked a protest by area residents. Though largely peaceful, they were joined by black-clad protesters like those who have clashed with police during months of anti-government protests and those protesters set a fire in the lobby of one of the buildings.
The fire was extinguished without appearing to cause major damage. Police later moved in n to disperse the group, using pepper spray on occasion.
In the heart of the outbreak where 11 million residents are already on lockdown, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas starting Sunday. The city will assign 6,000 taxis to neighborhoods to help people get around if they need to.
China cut off trains, planes and other links to the city Jan. 22, and has steadily expanded the lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million — greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.