Coronavirus: Qantas Working Out How To Get Evacuated Aussies To Christmas Island
The government wants to evacuate Australians trapped in Wuhan and isolate them for two weeks on Christmas Island, however, the airline that's been asked to help is still trying to figure out how.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced plans to get Australians out of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, the government signed off on an operation that would see Australian citizens flown to Christmas Island where they would be quarantined for up to 14 days.
"The Australian Embassy in Beijing is now seeking formal approval from the Chinese Government to send a plane to Wuhan to assist the departure of Australians from Hubei Province," Morrison said.
It's understood Australian airline Qantas has been asked to assist in the operation, pending on getting the "authority to proceed".
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on Wednesday the carrier had been in discussions with the government over a possible evacuation plan but that no decision had been made.
“There are a lot of complexities on this, and we are working through those complexities so we haven’t made a decision on it,” he said.
A Qantas spokesman told 10 daily the airline is working with the government to bring Australians home from Wuhan.
However, the Qantas 747 aircraft, the largest plane available for the trip, would not be able to land at Christmas Island, so plans were still being worked out.
10 daily understands that other ports may be used as part of the journey to Christmas Island and possible stops in Perth and Darwin may be required.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said he was not advised of the federal government's plan, but said he would support the move.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed more than 600 Australians have registered in the Hubei province for advice or assistance following the virus outbreak.
It remains unclear how many Australians will be evacuated under the government's plan.
The operation would see an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) provide medical support to those who arrive on Christmas Island.
Morrison said vulnerable Australians, including infants and the elderly, would be the top priority to be flown out of Wuhan.
The government has also said any Australian evacuees would be required to contribute to the cost of getting them out of Wuhan, "consistent with normal arrangements in these circumstances".
10 daily has sought clarification as to what costs evacuated Australians will be expected to cover themselves.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told a press conference on Wednesday "it's historically been a contribution towards airfare in the past."
The death toll from coronavirus in China has risen sharply to 132, with just over 6,000 confirmed cases, heaping pressure on Beijing to control the disease.