US to evacuate diplomats in China amid coronavirus outbreak

TIANJIN, CHINA - 2020/01/25: People wearing masks walking on the famous business street of Binjiang Dao, at downtown Tianjin. Wuhan New coronavirus pneumonia has been spread around all provinces in China, but Tibet. The government call the people stay in home or wear mask outside in this spring festival. The quick infection arouse fear among people, and many cities cancelled the folk activities such as temple fair to avoid people over gathering. It might bring non-negligible influence to China's economy. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(CNN) — The US government is arranging a charter flight to evacuate diplomats from the Chinese city that has become ground zero for a new deadly strain of coronavirus, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN Saturday.

The United States has a contract with a transporter to evacuate diplomats from the US consulate in Wuhan, China. The consulate is closed and all US diplomats are “under ordered departure,” the official said.

Details of the flight plan are still being finalized and the source said “a lot depends on what the Chinese authorities will allow us to do,” adding that Beijing has been “very cooperative.”

The State Department and White House have not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment on the matter.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the planned evacuation.

According to the Journal, the US consulate in Wuhan is reaching out to the Americans it is aware of in the country to offer them a spot on the flight.

The flight, which seats about 230 people, will include diplomats from the US consulate in Wuhan, as well as Americans and their families, the Journal reported. The person told the newspaper that any available seats might be offered to non-US citizens and diplomats of other nations.

The flight will have medical personnel aboard to treat anyone with the virus and make sure it is contained, according to the Journal.

Passengers will be asked to foot the bill for the flight, which is expected to cost much more than a commercial flight from China to the US, the Journal reported.

The newspaper reported that the United States also plans to temporarily close its consulate in Wuhan.

It is unknown where the plane plans to fly to in the US, the Journal noted.

Roughly 1,000 American citizens are believed to be in Wuhan, according to the Journal.

On Thursday, the US State Department ordered non-emergency personnel and their families to depart the Hubei Province of China, of which Wuhan is the provincial capital, due to the coronavirus.

The Department also raised the travel advisory for the Hubei province to “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” warning that the “U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province.”

Chinese authorities have imposed indefinite restrictions on public transport and travel in an unprecedented effort to contain the spread of the virus.