Another batch of stranded Australians are preparing to be evacuated from the epicentre of the coronavirus in China to New Zealand after more than 200 citizens and residents were taken to Christmas Island overnight.
None of the Christmas Island arrivals have so far shown any signs of having the deadly virus, but they will spend 14 days in quarantine to ensure they pose no health risk.
A team of specialist doctors and nurses is closely monitoring the 243 Australian evacuees, who were flown out of Wuhan in Hubei province on a Qantas flight yesterday.
They endured about 24 hours in transit, including a stop at Western Australia’s RAAF Base Learmonth, near Exmouth, before being taken on smaller aircraft to the island.
The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre is overseeing their care, and says medics on the island have reported all of the evacuees are well.
“They haven’t shown signs of the virus, and all going well, God willing, they won’t be showing signs of it and will in 14 days repatriate back home to their nation, Australia,” the centre’s executive director Len Notaras told ABC radio this morning.
Professor Notaras said the evacuees were being kept in discreet clusters of family members, or friendship groups.
That will allow medics to effectively manage any emergency on the virus and guard against any widespread transmission among the evacuees.
He said the Christmas Island facility being used to house the group would meet all of their needs.
“I won’t say that it is a salubrious one, but it is modern, and it is clean.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 other Australians are expected to join an Air New Zealand charter flight from Wuhan to Auckland.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the flight has departed and will stop in Hong Kong before continuing on to Wuhan.
It said Chinese authorities had cleared the flight to land today.
The flight is expected to be back in Auckland late tomorrow afternoon.
The number and nationalities of passengers is yet to be confirmed, but they will include New Zealanders and possibly Pacific Islanders too.
It’s still not clear what will happen to the Australians once the plane lands in Auckland, where they would be expected to be put into quarantine. But they could be sent back to Australia.
There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, and more than 20,000 cases and 425 deaths globally.
Foreign travellers who have left or passed through China will be denied entry to Australia to limit the spread of the virus.