Australia To Evacuate Citizens From Coronavirus Epicentre As Riots Break Out Abroad
The Australian government is preparing to evacuate citizens living in China and bring them home, claiming Australia is "incredibly well-prepared" to deal with more cases of the deadly virus.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said diplomatic staff are working with Chinese authorities to release Australian citizens from the country amid a lockdown in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus.
More than 100 Australian children and youth, aged between six months and 16 years old, are currently trapped in the area, the ABC confirmed.
Many of them are believed to have been in Wuhan to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Professor Brendan Murphy, Australia's chief medical officer, said more cases of the highly-contagious coronavirus are likely to be confirmed across the country as health authorities are reportedly preparing to confirm a fifth case of the virus on our shores.
He said "there is no general concern" for Australians but it is "highly likely" we will see more cases.
“I would not be surprised if there are some more cases... it’s highly likely that we may see them some more. We are incredibly well prepared to isolate and deal with that," he told reporters.
Removing Australian citizens from cities that are under lockdown is a logistical challenge considering the military presence and number of checkpoints surrounding cities such as Wuhan.
The US and France have also revealed plans to evacuate their citizens, with the US providing a charter flight from Wuhan to San Francisco to transport diplomats and other consular personnel out of the country.
France's health minister Agnes Buzyn says hundreds of French citizens will be flown out of Wuhan in the coming days as the virus outbreak spreads.
People who will be repatriated will have to spend 14 days in quarantine in a dedicated facility to avoid spreading the virus in France, Buzyn added.
The news comes as Australia prepares to confirm a potential fifth case of the deadly coronavirus. Currently, two men aged 53 and 43 remain in isolation at a Sydney hospital after arriving directly from Wuhan on January 20.
Another infected man, aged 35, arrived from the southern city of Shenzhen on 6 January.
A fourth, also aged in his 50s, was Australia’s first confirmed case of the virus after he touched down in Melbourne from Guangzhou on 19 January. He had previously been in Wuhan.
The Guardian reports that only the 53-year-old man is thought to have been contagious while travelling to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on China Eastern Airlines flight MU749.
Meanwhile, protesters in Hong Kong have set the lobby of a new residential building alight in fury after learning it would be used as a designated quarantine zone.
Hundreds of riot police were sent in to contain the incident with at least one person arrested.
Hundreds of regular Hong Kong citizens had blocked roads leading to the building with bricks and other debris, to protest plans to convert the building into a quarantine zone as the number of confirmed cases in the city climbed to six.
A 28-year-old resident said the estate was too close to homes.
"We are dissatisfied with the government selecting this housing estate as a (quarantine) separation village as it's very close to a residential area and a primary school," the resident said.
As fears about the virus outbreak intensify, calls have grown for the Hong Kong government to block the financial hub's border with mainland China to minimise the risk of infection.
Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park have closed for the time being, and direct train and flight connections between Hong Kong and Wuhan have been suspended.
The number of confirmed cases in China has climbed to more than 2,700 while 80 people have been killed.
So far the virus has spread several countries including Japan, Thailand, South Korea, US, France, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Singapore.