Japan and the United States were the first to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan on Wednesday as the death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 132.
With the number of confirmed cases now at nearly 6,000, the scale of the crisis has now exceeded the number of infected during the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that killed roughly 800 people.
A Japanese plane with roughly 200 people on board arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Wednesday morning. Authorities said four of the passengers were taken to hospital with fevers.
A US charter flight also left Wuhan for the Alaskan city of Anchorage, where passengers will be re-screened for the virus before heading on to California. The plane carried staffers from the local US consulate, as well as other US citizens.
"These travelers will be carefully screened and monitored to protect their health, as well as the health and safety of their fellow Americans," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
Quarantine on asylum-seeker island
The governments of Australia and New Zealand said they would work together to evacuate citizens from the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is situated. Evacuees are set to be quarantined on Christmas Island for up to 14 days. The remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean is best known for being used to hold asylum-seekers who had attempted to reach Australia by boat, as well as foreigners convicted of crimes in Australia awaiting deportation.
The European Union will fly citizens home aboard two French planes later this week. South Korea and Mongolia have planned similar evacuations.
Canada and the Philippines are among the other countries monitoring the situation and weighing options to get their citizens home.
Many countries have urged their citizens to "reconsider" all trips planned to China.
Germany reports further infections
First discovered in Wuhan, the new strain of the pneumonia-like virus is believed to have originated in the city's animal market. Chinese authorities have enacted a transport ban in Wuhan and 15 other cities in Hubei province as part of a mass quarantine effort, leaving around 50 million people stranded.
About 50 cases have been recorded outside of China, in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the US, France and Australia. Many countries, including Germany, have instituted health checks for airplane passengers arriving from China.
Germany reported three new cases of the virus in Bavaria on Tuesday, saying they were "connected" to the first patient confirmed a day earlier. Health officials said that the first person had contracted the disease from a Chinese colleague who had visited the area for a company workshop a week ago.
The Bavarian case is the first known example outside of China of the infection spreading between people who are not closely related.
International experts headed to China
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called the mysterious virus a "demon" as he met with World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Beijing on Tuesday, and vowed a "timely" release of updates on the crisis.
Following the talks, the WHO said the two sides agreed to send international experts to China "as soon as possible."
"Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO's highest priority," Tedros said.