When the United States closed its consulate in Wuhan and prepared to extract all its diplomats, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned of a "serious situation" in the rapid spread of the coronavirus that killed 56 lives.
The virus, which broke out in Wuhan last month, infected at least 1,975 people in at least 29 provinces and cities and killed 56 people in China, according to the National Health Commission.
The figures reported on Sunday morning cover the previous 24 hours and mark an increase of 15 deaths and 688 cases.
The government also reported five cases in Hong Kong, two in Macau and three in Taiwan. A small number of cases have been found in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, USA, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia.
Among the victims is Liang Wudong, a 62-year-old doctor at Hubei Xinhua Hospital, who died on Saturday after treating patients in Wuhan, according to the state-owned Global Television Network.
A hospital in Toronto confirmed on Saturday that it is treating a patient with the deadly virus, the first in Canada.
AN the second case in the USA was confirmed Friday in Chicago, Along with three cases in France. There were no deaths outside China.
The US State Department organized a charter flight for Tuesday to bring all its diplomats and other US citizens after the temporary closure of the Wuhan consulate, the Associated Press reported. A Sunday notice from the embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport US citizens on the flight that will proceed directly to San Francisco.
The reports followed a notice from the State Department on its website, stating that all essential personnel had been ordered to leave the city of 11 million.
& # 39; Everything is now experimental. & # 39 ;:See how doctors are treating coronavirus
Xi addressed the issue on Saturday at a special meeting of the Communist Party, in which he called for more intense measures to face the accelerating crisis.
"Faced with the serious situation of this accelerated spread of pneumonia by infections with the new coronavirus, we need to intensify the centralized and united leadership under the central leadership of the party," said Xi.
A report released at the meeting said that Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, "must make containment and control of the epidemic its top priority, taking even stricter measures to prevent it from expanding inside and spreading outward."
China has already suspended all train, plane and other transport connections to the city, which ordered a ban on all vehicle traffic in the center as of midnight on Saturday, state media reported.
Only vehicles authorized to transport supplies and for other needs would be allowed after that, the reports said.
The city said it will allocate 6,000 taxis to different neighborhoods, under the administration of local committees, to help people get around, if necessary, said the Chinese state-run newspaper China Daily.
Elsewhere, the most recent US victim, a woman from Chicago, returned on January 13 from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and began to experience symptoms a few days after arriving home, said Allison Arwady, Department of Health Commissioner. Chicago Public Health.
The 60-year-old woman called the doctor after the symptoms started. She was treated at St. Alexius, in Hoffman Estates, and isolated, health officials said. Additional tests confirmed the virus.
Arwady said the woman was "clinically well and in stable condition". She has not had prolonged contact with anyone outside her home, attended a large public meeting or used public transport, Arwady said.
The woman was not symptomatic while flying, and Arwady told reporters at a Chicago news conference on Friday: "The CDC does not believe that, before symptoms develop, patients can be contagious."
In Paris, the doctor in charge of treating two hospital patients for the new virus said on Saturday that the disease looks less severe than comparable outbreaks in the past and that the chance of a European epidemic appears slim at this stage.
French authorities reported on Friday three confirmed cases of the newly identified coronavirus in France, the first in Europe. The third patient is in a hospital in Bordeaux.
Yazdan Yazdanpaneh, a leading French expert who heads the infectious disease unit in Bichat, said the cases imported from China "are not a surprise" and that France had prepared, including developing a test that provides quick results for suspected cases.
Although the majority of cases have focused on China, an increasing number of cases have been confirmed elsewhere, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Australia and Malaysia registered their first cases on Saturday and Japan registered the third.
As the crisis escalated, local Chinese officials rushed to build a 1,000-bed hospital in six days to serve the growing number of patients. Authorities announced on Saturday that 658 patients were being treated for the virus and 57 were seriously ill, Reuters reported.
The state-owned Global Television Network reported on Saturday that the health commission was sending six groups of 1,230 medical teams to Wuhan. In addition, 450 military doctors, some with experience in fighting the SARS and Ebola viruses, were sent to the city on Friday.
The Xinhua news agency reported that other medical supplies were being rushed to the city, including 14,000 protective clothing and 110,000 pairs of gloves from the central medical reserves, as well as masks and goggles.
The virus caused a major public outcry, with the government shutting down public transport to around 36 million people in 13 cities in central China and canceling events related to the celebration of the Lunar New Year, a busy time for travel.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that all direct flights and trains from Wuhan would be blocked and that all schools would be closed in the city by 17 February.
Beijing's Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and sections of the Great Wall were also closed.
Respiratory virus of rapid spread:Drug makers are struggling to make a coronavirus vaccine
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause diseases ranging from the common cold to pneumonia. Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
Health officials said the virus, which is likely to spread through small drops when a person coughs or sneezes, is of low risk. The authorities urged people to take the usual precautions for the cold and flu season: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home when you feel unwell.
"These diseases can arise anywhere," said Trish Perl, head of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "This is a dynamic situation that can change dramatically from day to day."
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means that they are transmitted between animals and people. Many of the initial cases were linked to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan. Chinese health officials, who first notified the cases last month, said the male-to-male transmission was confirmed.
Contribution: Ryan Miller, Grace Hauck, Nicholas Wu, John Bacon, Ken Alltucker and Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.