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 241 Australian evacuees, who were flown out of Wuhan in Hubei province on a Qantas flight on Monday.
There are several children among the first group, with 89 evacuees under 16, and five under the age of two.
Two of the evacuees – a pregnant woman and her partner – were flown to Perth instead of Christmas Island. They will remain in isolation there as there are no maternity facilities on the island.
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.
They arrived in the rain and the dark, to be met by Australian Border Force staff for the journey by bus to Christmas Island’s repurposed detention centre.
The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre is overseeing their care, and said medics had reported all of the evacuees were 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 on Tuesday.
Professor Notaras said evacuees were being kept in discrete clusters of family members, or friendship groups.
That would allow medics to manage any emergence of the virus and guard against widespread transmission among the evacuees.
He said the Christmas Island facility would meet all of the evacuees’ 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 said the flight had departed NZ on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, it was in Hong Kong, awaiting clearance to fly to Wuhan.
The plane is expected to arrive back in Auckland late on Wednesday, New Zealand time.
Final numbers won’t be locked in until the plane’s manifest is confirmed just prior to the flight.
New Zealand will quarantine its evacuees at a naval training range north of Auckland. However, it’s not clear what will happen to Australians on the Air NZ flight.
They can expect to go into quarantine, but might also be sent back to Australia – which would mean another long flight to Christmas Island.
There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, and more than 17,000 cases and 360 deaths globally.
Foreign travellers who have left or passed through China will be denied entry to Australia to limit the spread of the virus.