The Belgian foreign affairs ministry has revised its information on the number of Belgian citizens remaining in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the Corona virus struck.
According to the latest information, only three Belgians remain in the region. This week the ministry said 11 Belgians were in the region, all of whom had been contacted by the Belgian embassy by email.
“The situation is being followed closely,” a spokesperson for the ministry said. The three remaining Belgians can apparently do nothing about their situation, given that the Chinese authorities have taken precautions to avert the spread of the disease by imposing a quarantine on some areas.
The media reports that some countries are considering action to airlift their citizens out of China, but the foreign ministry would not comment. Any rescue action could be implemented on a European level.
The disease is spreading in concentric circles. The total number of people infected has now been put at 1,975 by the Chinese authorities. By far the largest number of those, some 1,600 at the latest count, are in Hubei province. The death toll has risen to 56, with 54 in Hubei. The other two fatalities were in Shanghai and in Henan province, which borders Hubei.
In the rest of the world, cases have appeared in France and in Canada, where a 50-year-old man has been conformed as infected. He recently returned from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.
The French health authorities, meanwhile, have said the three patients there – two in Paris and one in Bordeaux – are being looked after and are doing well. One of the doctors treating the Paris patients said he thought it unlikely the disease would take a hold in Europe.
Four patients have also been identified in Australia, three of them in Sydney.
To deal with that possibility, the French authorities will today begin screening passengers returning from China at all French airports. This morning, a flight from Beijing landed at Brussels Airport, but according to the authorities no special measures would be in place. “Safety measures at our airport are already always very strict,” said a spokesperson for the federal public health ministry, “If a passenger becomes sick on board, the crew report that immediately, and a medical team is standing by on arrival. We remain very vigilant.”
Meanwhile, epidemiologist Marc Van Ranst, once the government’s flu tsar, put the outbreak in perspective on Twitter.
“Don’t call the Wuhan Corona virus a killer disease,” he wrote. “Last year 140,000 people died of measles, 770,000 of HIV, 405,000 of malaria and 1,500,000 of tuberculosis. I can guarantee that all of these people are just as dead as those who have died of the Wuhan Corona virus.”