The United States told its citizens not to travel to China in the first major response to the World Health Organization's declaration of a global emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus, as Chinese authorities increased the number of victims to 213 dead and almost 10,000 infections.
The State Department raised its alert alert to the highest level, telling its citizens not to "travel" to China due to an epidemic that has now spread to more than 20 nations.
Hours earlier, WHO, which has faced criticism for initially minimizing the threat of the virus, reviewed its risk assessment after the crisis talks in Geneva.
"Our biggest concern is the possibility of the virus spreading to countries with weaker health systems," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"We must all act together now to limit further spread […] We can only stop it together. "
Tedros said travel and trade restrictions involving China were unnecessary, but authorities and businesses around the world were taking matters into their own hands.
Germany, Britain and other countries have issued warnings about travel to China, major airlines have suspended or reduced flights to the country, and Mongolia has stopped cross-border traffic with its huge southern neighbor.
Russia also sealed its remote border of the Far East with China as a precaution.
Some countries have banned travelers from Wuhan, the central city of China where the virus first appeared, while Italy and Israel banned all flight connections with China on Thursday.
Papua New Guinea has reached the extreme of excluding all visitors from the "Asian ports".
The United States reported its first case of person-to-person transmission of the virus on American soil: a man in Chicago who contracted him from his wife, who had traveled to Wuhan.
In a sign of the spread of paranoia, more than 6,000 tourists were temporarily locked on board a cruise ship in an Italian port after two Chinese passengers became ill. Later they tested negative for the virus.
And a pilot union in the United States sued American Airlines to demand that it stop all flights to China.
The death toll grows
China has taken extreme measures to stop the spread of the virus, including the effective quarantine of more than 50 million people in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei.
The government reported 43 new deaths on Friday in the previous 24 hours.
The number of new deaths has increased daily in the last 10 days.
The vast majority have been in Hubei, and many were elderly.
The National Health Commission of China also said Friday that 1,982 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to just under 10,000.
Another 102,000 people were under medical observation in China with possible symptoms of respiratory disease.
It is believed that the pathogen emerged in a Wuhan market that sold wild animals, and spread in a Lunar New Year holiday season in which hundreds of millions of Chinese travel to their homes or abroad.
The air bridges continue
Thousands of foreigners have been trapped in Wuhan since it was closed last week.
France transported about 200 of its citizens from Wuhan by plane on Friday. They will be quarantined for two weeks in their home country.
Britain did the same in a matter of hours, extracting 110 British and foreign citizens.
"It is sad to leave a country to which you are attached," said Adrien, a 26-year-old French car industry employee. AFP before the flight
"We are also relieved because we don't know how things are going to work out in China."
Japan and the United States expelled citizens on Wednesday.
More foreign evacuation flights are expected.
Tokyo reported Thursday that three people aboard its first evacuation flight tested positive after landing in Japan.
Two of them showed no symptoms, which underscores the difficulty in detecting the coronavirus.
Japan has generated criticism by allowing evacuees to "self-quarantine."
The virus is similar to the pathogen of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). That outbreak also began in Chinese animals sold for meat and eventually killed almost 800 people worldwide in 2002-03.
Major airlines that have suspended or reduced service to China include British Airways, the German-flagged airline Lufthansa, American Airlines, KLM and United.
To stop the virus, China suspended schools across the country and extended the Lunar New Year vacations, among other measures.
WHO has declared a global health emergency five times since the practice began in 2007: for swine flu, polio, Zika and twice for Ebola.
It allows the UN health agency to issue global recommendations that the international community is expected to follow.
Global stock markets have collapsed after corporate giants like Toyota, IKEA, Starbucks, Tesla, McDonald's and others temporarily freeze production or close a large number of outlets in China.
But investors took some heart on Friday because of WHO's recommendation against trade and travel restrictions for now, with the opening of Asian markets.
Across China, the evidence of fear multiplied, with makeshift barriers in some residential neighborhoods.
The crisis has caused a rise in Chinese food prices.
On Thursday, the central government partly blamed this on excessively jealous preventive measures, issuing a directive that prohibits obstacles or other obstacles that affect food shipments.