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New Zealand will team up with Australia to get citizens out of the Chinese city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.
In a press conference held this afternoon, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had spoken with Ardern and the countries had agreed to cooperate on the operation to get their citizens out of Wuhan.
Ardern said in a statement that the two countries have confirmed they will work together on a "joint ANZAC assisted departure of Australians and New Zealanders from Wuhan".
"Specific details of the evacuation plan, including the medical protocols that will be applied to returning New Zealanders, and access arrangements on the ground in China are being worked through by officials."
More than 50 New Zealanders are stuck in Wuhan, which is in lockdown to limit the spread of the disease, and many are asking for help to leave the city.
Morrison said the Australians would be quarantined on Christmas Island, but it was not clear where the New Zealanders would go.
Morrison said children and elderly people in Wuhan will get priority.
He said there was rather a limited window and the Australian government was moving very swiftly to ensure it could put the operation together.
About 600 Australians are registered as being in Hubei province, including about 140 Australian children currently in Wuhan.
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 131 as health authorities at the epicentre of the epidemic reported another 840 confirmed cases, taking the total to 5355. The flu-like virus has spread overseas to more than a dozen countries.
Earlier today, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reviewed its travel advice for China, and is now advising New Zealanders to avoid non-essential travel to the country.
An updated notice on the ministry's Safe Travel website said the government had limited ability to provide emergency services to New Zealanders in the province.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Tuesday it was exploring a possible evacuation including a chartered flight out of the city or assistance from the Defence Force. It would not comment on individual cases but said it had responded to about 20 requests for consular assistance.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will soon talk with the U.S National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien about potentially evacuating New Zealand citizens from Wuhan.
Peters said conversations were also ongoing with other countries including Australia and all options remained open.
But he said any evacuations have to be done in close co-operation with the Chinese authorities, as they are in charge of travel over the border.
Reuters reported fears of the spreading virus led airlines to reduce flights to China and global companies to restrict employee travel to the country. CNBC reported that the White House had told US airlines it may suspend all China-US flights due to the outbreak.
None of the confirmed deaths to date have been outside China. However, confirmations of person-to-person transmission in Germany, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan - as opposed to a travellers from China - has heightened concern.
Known as "2019-nCoV", the newly identified coronavirus can cause pneumonia and, like other respiratory infections, it spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes.
According to the World Health Organisation and national authorities, there have been more than 50 confirmed cases outside China but no deaths.
14 cases: Thailand
6 cases: Japan
5 cases: USA, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan
4 cases: Malaysia, South Korea, France
2 cases: Vietnam
1 cases: Nepal, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany
Japan is expecting to evacuate about 200 nationals on a chartered plane today, with health workers on board to monitor passengers.
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it would start helping to repatriate Europeans. There will be two flights from Wuhan to Europe, the first today and the second later in the week. About 250 French citizens will be on the first flight and more than 100 citizens of other EU countries will be on the second, the Commission said.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
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