WELLINGTON – New Zealand said on Thursday it would charter an aircraft to assist its citizens wanting to leave Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
The aircraft will have capacity for around 300 passengers and will fly from Wuhan to New Zealand, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.
“We are pleased to be have been able to offer this assistance to New Zealanders in a challenging situation,” Peters said.
“New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority,” he said, adding that the government was working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible.
Consular teams will work with health officials to ensure the risks of transmission of the coronavirus to New Zealand are carefully managed throughout the evacuation process, the statement said.
The total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in China rose on Thursday by 38 to 170, as the number of infected patients globally rose to 7,815. Although most cases identified remain in China, more than a dozen other countries have so far reported cases.
Peters said officials are currently developing procedures for pre-departure health screening of passengers, infection control inflight, and isolation of all passengers arriving in New Zealand for up to two weeks.
The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 132, and there are now nearly 6,000 confirmed infections worldwide. There are seven confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia ― four in NSW, one in Queensland and two in Victoria.
Two more Australian citizens, who are in China, have been confirmed to have the virus.
Australia said on Wednesday that it will help some citizens leave Hubei province in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and quarantine them on Christmas Island, and would also be working to help New Zealand and Pacific island citizens in Hubei.
Reporting by Praveen Menon