News National Third airlift of Wuhan evacuees lands in Darwin

Third airlift of Wuhan evacuees lands in Darwin

The Qantas mercy flight arrives at Darwin from Wuhan. Photo: ABC
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Australians who were stranded in the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan in China have arrived in Darwin.

Their flight touched down at Darwin’s RAAF base shortly before midday local time.

The Australian Border Force said there were 266 evacuees on the flight, including 77 children and 11 infants.

There were also eight students from the Pacific Islands who were allowed to board the flight and land in Darwin on humanitarian grounds, Border Force said.

The landing came just hours after the coronavirus death toll in mainland China rose to 811, surpassing the number of fatalities in the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

The evacuees were subject to rigorous screening for the virus throughout their journey, with tests conducted before take-off and twice during the flight.

Having arrived in Darwin, they are expected to be tested again before being transferred to an unused workers’ camp where they will be quarantined for 14 days. They are expected to be tested again once they enter the quarantine facility.

The plane, which was set to arrive in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday, was originally delayed after Chinese authorities declined to issue clearance for the evacuation.

The Howard Springs camp will be home to the Wuhan evacuees for at least the next two weeks.

The camp in Howard Springs, about 30 kilometres south east of Darwin’s CBD, was once home to 3,500 workers employed in the construction of Inpex’s $55 billion gas plant on Darwin Harbour.

Earlier in the week, parents of students at a school next door to the planned quarantine centre flagged concerns about the proximity of the coronavirus evacuees to children and the wider community.

On Saturday Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy assured local residents there was no realistic risk of transmission, even if an evacuee was to contract the virus.

Health officials said evacuees would be kept at least 300 metres from local residents throughout the quarantine period.