Coronavirus: Countries evacuate citizens from China

Wednesday March 18 2020
evacuations pic

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 29, 2020. PHOTO | MARK RALSTON | AFP

By AFP

Hong Kong,

Thousands of foreigners were among millions of people confined in the central Chinese city of Wuhan when Beijing announced plans to stem the spread of a SARS-like virus which has now claimed 213 lives nationwide.

On Friday, China's National Health Commission said nearly 10,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus. Outside mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong, there have been at least 80 confirmed cases reported.

These are the plans so far by foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from the epicentre of the outbreak:

REPARTRIATIONS

The foreign ministry said Tuesday it was working on a plan to transport home all Australian nationals, most of whom it said are dual nationals.

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Officials added they had received about 400 calls from Australians in China registering for evacuation.

Canberra does not have a consulate in Wuhan but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is negotiating with Chinese officials over the arrangements.

He said officials were talking to the United States and Britain about the plans and working with New Zealand on a possible joint evacuation effort.

Authorities in Dhaka will send a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the country's national carrier, to bring back 361 nationals, health ministry spokesman Maidul Islam said Friday. Like most countries, Bangladesh will also quarantine the returnees for 14 days.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday it has now requested permission to operate two flights to remove nationals from China, and that the Indian embassy in Beijing was in talks with local authorities.

National carrier Air India will send a Boeing 747 to Wuhan on Friday to bring back Indian nationals, two aviation industry sources told AFP.

Jakarta said there are more than 230 Indonesians in China -- roughly 100 in Wuhan and the rest in Hubei province. The foreign ministry said Tuesday it has yet to decide on an evacuation plan.

QUARANTINE

Japan was among the first countries to bring its nationals out of Wuhan.

By Friday, three planeloads had arrived back in Tokyo, a total of more than 550 people.

At least three dozen have been hospitalised.

Most of those who came back are staying in government-appointed hotels, though at least two went home.

They are being asked -- but not mandated -- to stay in self-quarantine for two weeks.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday that Kuala Lumpur was keen to send a plane to Wuhan to evacuate some 78 Malaysians stranded in the city.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday it would evacuate citizens in Hubei on a chartered flight, and asked nationals in the area to contact the Shanghai consulate.

HOMEBOUND

On Tuesday, officials said there were roughly 150 Filipinos in Wuhan and another 150 in other parts of Hubei.

Singapore flew home 92 of its citizens from Wuhan on Thursday, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Singaporeans flew back on a flight operated by Scoot, Singapore Airline's budget arm, and landed Thursday morning.

Colombo said Tuesday there were roughly 860 Sri Lankan students in China.

The foreign ministry said it is awaiting a response from the Chinese authorities to operate a Sri Lankan airlines charter flight to Wuhan to evacuate some 32 Sri Lankan students and their relatives.

A chartered plane carrying 368 South Koreans arrived home from Wuhan on Friday.

Among them, 18 evacuees who are showing symptoms have been hospitalised at two medical facilities in Seoul.

WUHAN PRIORITY

Thailand's premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Wednesday China has been "arranging the slot" for the country to evacuate its citizens, and those from Wuhan city would be the first to return -- though he did not provide a specific time frame.

Sixty-five Thais are in Wuhan, the premier said.

The State Department said a chartered flight had left Wuhan early Wednesday with 240 American citizens on board, including consular staff.

After receiving clearance from Chinese authorities, Britain airlifted 110 British and foreign nationals on Friday.

A plane carrying around 200 French citizens flew out of virus-hit Wuhan on Friday.

About 500 to 1,000 French citizens are eligible for repatriation there. Another flight is planned.

The European Union meanwhile said it would co-fund an airlift effort at France's request, so that more than 100 nationals from other EU nations could be repatriated along with French citizens.

CONDITIONS

The European Commission said "only healthy or asymptomatic citizens will be authorised to travel" on the flights.

Berlin said Wednesday it was planning to evacuate roughly 90 citizens reportedly in Wuhan, with German newspapers reporting nationals would leave Wuhan on Saturday.

Spanish officials are working with China and the European Union to take Spanish nationals out of the area, the foreign minister said. 

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has asked the government to take all measures needed to bring home 36 Algerians, most of them students, living in Wuhan, according to state agency APS.

About 100 people, mostly students in Wuhan, will be evacuated, according to local media.