UK, France urge citizens out of China; Belgium sees 1st case

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A patient waits as medical workers in protective suits prepare to collect a sample for nucleic acid tests at a hotel being used to place suspected virus patients in medical isolation in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Hong Kong hospitals cut services as thousands of medical workers went on strike for a second day Tuesday to demand the border with mainland China be shut completely, as a new virus caused its first death in the semi-autonomous territory and authorities feared it was spreading locally. (Chinatopix via AP)

LONDON – Britain on Tuesday urged all of its citizens in China to leave the country because of the outbreak of a respiratory illness from a new virus, while Belgium became the latest nation to announce a confirmed case.

An updated advisory issued by the U.K. Foreign Office said that while commercial flights remained available from most of mainland China, travel restrictions introduced by the Chinese government to contain the epidemic meant "it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks.

“If you're in China and able to leave, you should do so,” the advisory said.

France also issued an advisory, warning against any non-essential travel to China and suggesting that French citizens who were already there return home.

More than 20,400 people have been infected with the virus in China and 425 have died. Two other people have died in the Philippines and Hong Kong and 20 other nations have reported cases.

Belgium, meanwhile, reported its first case of the coronavirus, found in one of the nine citizens who were repatriated from Wuhan over the weekend. The Belgian Health Ministry said the infected individual was in good health and didn't show any symptoms of the disease. The person was taken to a special hospital for further care while the others remained under observation.

Germany confirmed two more cases of the virus: one an employee of an auto parts company that a Chinese colleague visited two weeks ago and the other in a child of an infected company employee who previously had another child test positive.

In all, Europe had 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday: Germany has 12; France six; Russia, Italy and the U.K have two each and Finland, Sweden, Spain and Belgium have one each.