France and a major automaker said on Saturday that they are moving to get citizens out of a locked-down Chinese city where a deadly outbreak of a new virus originated and has spread worldwide.
French automaker PSA Group says it will evacuate its employees and their families from Wuhan in central China, quarantine them in another major Chinese city and then bring them back to France.
The Foreign Ministry said French officials were studying “eventual options” for all its nationals to leave if they wish.
It comes a day after France announced that three cases of the new virus are being treated in two French hospitals — the first confirmed in Europe. All the patients are Chinese who had recently returned from China and are doing well, officials said.
PSA Group did not say how many employees would be part of an evacuation.
In a series of tweets, the automaker said transportation, housing and other organizational considerations are being worked out. PSA, which sells its Peugeot and Citroen cars in China, has a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Corp (DFM, 東風汽車) in Wuhan.
PSA said it was working closely with Chinese authorities and the French Consulate.
The French Foreign Ministry’s statement made no mention of PSA’s plans.
The automaker did not say how long the quarantine period would last.
However, French medical experts have said the incubation period for the virus appears to be 14 days.
PSA also said it is working with Chinese partner DFM and authorities to take care of Chinese employees. It did not elaborate.
French authorities have cautioned against panic at home, but were concerned about the country’s citizens in Wuhan and those arriving in France, which has direct flights to China. Starting yesterday, medical teams were deployed at France’s airports, notably Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, to help passengers arriving from Chinese cities with questions or medical needs, French health chief Jerome Salomon said.
The new virus accelerated its spread in China with 56 deaths so far, and the US consulate in the epicenter of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, announced yesterday it would evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.
A notice from the US embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport US citizens on tomorrow’s flight from Wuhan that will proceed directly to San Francisco. It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus.”
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