The death toll in China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has risen to 170, the state media reported.

A woman wears a face masks as she travels on a high-speed train near Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, on January 29, 2020.
A woman wears a face masks as she travels on a high-speed train near Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, on January 29, 2020. (Reuters)

Foreign governments began flying their citizens out of China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, as the state media said the nationwide death toll had risen to 170.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country stood at 7, 711 as of January 29, the state media reported.

Earlier, the health commission for Hubei said on Thursday that deaths in the province from the new coronavirus had risen by 37 to 162, while a further 1,032 cases had been detected.

Although the majority of cases have been in Hubei, cases have been detected elsewhere in China and in at least 15 other countries.

Potential for 'larger outbreak'

The World Health Organization's (WHO) Emergency Committee is set to reconvene behind closed doors in Geneva later on Thursday to decide whether the rapid spread of the virus now constitutes a global emergency.

"In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Wednesday, naming Germany, Vietnam and Japan.

"Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak."

The United States flew about 200 Americans out of Wuhan, capital of Hubei where most of the cases are concentrated.

They were being screened on arrival in California. 

France, Britain and Canada also have organized evacuations.

The effects of the virus are already weighing heavily on China's economy, the world's second-biggest, with companies cutting corporate travel and tourists cancelling trips.

The virus appears to represent the biggest epidemic threat to the airline industry since the SARS outbreak, which at its peak in April 2003 led to a 45% plunge in passenger demand in Asia, analysts said.

Various airlines are cutting flights, from British Airways and Lufthansa to Air Canada and American Airlines.

US mulls further airlines restrictions

The White House is considering further restrictions on US airlines flying to and from China in addition to voluntary restrictions that the companies have put into place, President Donald Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.

Kudlow said the matter was under discussion but declined to give further details.

Kudlow also said that officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were going to China to help with the coronavirus outbreak at China's invitation. 

Source: Reuters