About 200 Chinese citizens stranded in Iran are expected to arrive back in China on Wednesday morning on a chartered flight as the Middle Eastern country struggles with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. The China Southern Airlines flight is expected to leave Tehran on Tuesday night bound for Lanzhou in the northwestern province of Gansu. Passengers include employees of Chinese companies in Iran, Chinese businesspeople, and about 30 Chinese students from Qom, a city south of the Iranian capital and where many of the coronavirus cases have occurred. On Tuesday, Iran announced that 2,336 people had been infected with the coronavirus, including 835 new cases, making it the third-most seriously affected country after China and South Korea. The repatriation of Chinese citizens came as Iran, South Korea and even the United States reported significant increases of new cases and China stepped up quarantine rules at home to keep imported cases at bay. China has reported a steady decline of new cases in the past week, with only 125 infections recorded on Monday, down from 202 the previous day. Meanwhile, at least 13 imported cases were reported in Shanghai and eastern China province of Zhejiang on Tuesday. World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that China had shown that containment of the disease was possible, adding that there were nine times more new infections outside China than in the country, where the epidemic was first reported in December. How WeChat censored even neutral messages about the coronavirus Global Times , a tabloid affiliated with People’s Daily , reported that more charter flights would be arranged in the coming days to bring more Chinese from Iran. The flight was not an evacuation, the report said, adding the passengers had to pay for the flight. One member of the Chinese community in Iran was quoted as saying that flights between the Middle Eastern country and China had been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, and other flights involved stopovers in Moscow and Bangkok. “Because there are several imported infections in China with people returning home from Iran with a stopover in other places, the embassy advised the Chinese community in Iran a few days ago not to take this risky and difficult method to return to China. A charter plane will be sent to pick us up,” the person was quoted as saying. Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the Islamic Republic’s armed forces to help the country’s health ministry contain the virus spread. The Chinese government earlier said they are highly concerned about the spread of the disease in countries like South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. Cui Aimin, director of the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that if the epidemic in other countries worsened, China would take measures to help citizens return to China. Outside Iran, infections have also soared. South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared the nation at “war” against the coronavirus as it reported 851 new cases on Tuesday, bringing total infections to 5,186. In Italy, there were 2,036 people infected and 52 deaths. Yonhap News Agency reported that Moon had ordered all government organisations to shift to a “24-hour emergency situation room system” to bolster readiness to handle quarantine and economy related measures. In the United States, the death toll rose to six on Monday and the number of cases topped 100 across 15 states with officials warning that the figures would rise in coming days as authorities completed more tests on suspected patients. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said the British army was ready to support police in maintaining public order as part of government planning for the worst-case scenario. Separately, finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven nations said they would use all appropriate policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable growth and safeguard against downside risks from the fast-spreading coronavirus. Will China’s economy shrink for the first time since 1976? In a joint statement, they said that G7 finance ministers were ready to take action, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus. They said central banks would continue to fulfil their mandate and support price stability and economic growth. On Tuesday, health officials in eastern Zhejiang province confirmed seven new cases of coronavirus, all of whom were Chinese nationals returning from Italy to Qingtian county. Of the seven, six travelled with a 31-year-old woman who was confirmed as infected on Monday. Identified by her surname Wang, she worked as a waitress in a restaurant in Bergamo, a city in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Shanghai health authorities said that 71 people who have had contact with the eight travellers to Qingtian were in quarantine. In a letter to people living abroad, Qingtian county government said it was understandable that returning home would be an appealing idea but advised the compatriots that the best option would be to stay put. “[People] travelling home could not only be exposed to risks of infection during the trip and bring enormous pressure to their hometown’s effort to contain the outbreak, but [they could] also endanger the health and safety of families and people in the county,” the letter said. Local governments in China have ramped up preventive measures. Shanghai will require travellers entering the city from countries with “relatively serious virus conditions” to quarantine themselves for 14 days. That followed a similar decision by authorities in the southern province of Guangdong. Indonesia scrambles to find first coronavirus patients’ close contacts In addition to quarantine rules, Beijing has also demanded that overseas residents who arrive back in China must register and report to community health officials, a process that also involves daily monitoring of their body temperature. In Dandong, a city in northeastern Liaoning province near the border with North Korea, the local government said all visitors who arrived on or after February 12 would have to undergo health tests, while those who arrived on or after February 28 would be tested at designated hotels where they would be quarantined if found to be infected. Analysts said that pressure on local governments could increase as more citizens overseas planned to return home for annual festivals and commemorations. Some may be planning trips back for the grave-sweeping festival, which this year falls on April 5. “This is not an easy issue. There will be more and more severely affected countries in the coming weeks,” said Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor in virology at Tohoku University in northern Japan. “There needs to be a long-term strategy to contain all new transmission chains. We are also considering this in Japan,” he said. Additional reporting by Associated Press Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. 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