U.S. State Department organizing more flights for Americans to return from Wuhan: official

A young resident of Chinatown wears a surgical mask in New York City, U.S., January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is working with U.S. and Chinese agencies to organize additional flights for U.S. citizens to return to the United States from Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, a State Department official said on Friday.

The effort comes as major U.S. airlines said on Friday said they were suspending all flights to mainland China.

The State Department and White House did not comment on a Politico report that the Trump administration was considering a mandatory order for all U.S. citizens to leave the Wuhan region.

The State Department official said “as space is available, seating will be offered to U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis, to leave from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to the United States. All travelers will be screened for symptoms at the airport prior to departure.”

The State Department late Thursday boosted its travel advisory for China from a Level 3: Reconsider Travel to Level 4: Do Not Travel.

Chinese authorities have suspended air, road, and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and the larger Hubei Province, and placed restrictions on travel and other activities throughout the country.

The White House declined to comment.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; David Shepardson and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; editing by Diane Craft and Tom Brown