The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the Wuhan coronavirus a global emergency, as the toll in the epidemic rose to 213.

In its daily report on Friday, China’s National Health Commission declared that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 9,692. The country’s medical authorities have also put over 1,02,000 others under medical observation, with symptoms of the respiratory illness.

The World Health Organization – the health agency of the United Nations – defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. As many as 18 other countries, including the United States, France, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Vietnam and India, have reported cases of the coronavirus so far.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Our greatest concern is the potential for this virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it. This declaration is not a vote of non-confidence in China.”

Meanwhile, Russia announced on Thursday that it was closing its 2,600-mile (4,180-km) border with China, joining Mongolia and North Korea in doing so.

India reported its first case on Thursday. In Hubei province of China, the epicentre of the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases is said to be 5,806, PTI reported. At least 204 people have died in the province.

Reacting to the WHO announcement of a global emergency, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese government has been taking the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures with a high sense of responsibility for people’s health.”

Indian embassy alerts citizens about evacuation plan

The Indian embassy in Beijing on Thursday alerted Indian citizens in Wuhan, the city where the epidemic began, of a possible evacuation plan on Friday evening, The Indian Express reported. “This [the first] flight will carry those Indian nationals who are in and around Wuhan and have conveyed consent for their evacuation,” the embassy said. “There will be another flight subsequently which will carry those who are from other parts of Hubei Province.”

However, the embassy added that the details are tentative. The embassy has drawn up a list of 374 students, till 11 pm on Thursday, who will board the first flight on Friday. However, they will be subject to medical clearance by Chinese officials, and can carry no more than one carry-on bag (7 kg) and one check-in luggage (15 kg) for their journey. Students have also been ordered to get safety equipment to protect others from the virus.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We have made a formal request to the government of China for bringing back Indian nationals from the Hubei province in two flights. We are awaiting the necessary approval from the Chinese side. We hope this will be granted soon.”