Passenger wearing a mask
© Reuters / Brian Snyder
A passenger wearing a mask boards a flight in Boston.
The United States is preparing to evacuate its diplomats and citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a new report. Wuhan is the epicenter of a deadly coronavirus outbreak that has so far killed more than 40 people.

According to the Wall Street Journal's sources, Washington is sending a charter flight to Wuhan on Sunday to bring home its consular staff situated in the city of 11 million people, as well as some or all of the roughly 1,000 Americans residing locally.

The operation was reportedly green-lit by the Chinese foreign ministry, following negotiations in recent days.

Chinese authorities have imposed travel restrictions on Wuhan and nearly 20 cities in Hubei Province, with nearly 50 million people quarantined. The virus — which causes severe flu-like symptoms — has killed at least 41 people since it first passed from animals to humans in December, reportedly at a food and animal market in Wuhan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping described the situation on Saturday as "grave." Though doctors in Wuhan have managed to treat 38 victims of the infection, its spread has accelerated, and two academic papers published on Friday found that it can be passed on by people showing no outward symptoms of infection.

Outside of China, the virus has spread to the US, Australia, France, and several Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, and Thailand. Nearly every confirmed patient had traveled from Wuhan in recent weeks.

As the US reportedly gears up to fly its citizens home, Russia is also in talks with Beijing to evacuate any Russians in Hubei Province, RIA reported on Saturday. No Russians have thus far been infected with the virus, the report added.