Japan and the US were the first to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan on Wednesday as the death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 132.
With the number of confirmed cases now at nearly 6,000, the scale of the crisis has now exceeded the number of infected during the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that killed roughly 800 people.
A Japanese plane with roughly 200 people on board arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Wednesday morning. Authorities said four of the passengers were taken to hospital with fevers.
A US charter flight carrying 201 American evacuees from Wuhan is continuing its way to southern California after everyone on board passed two health screening tests in the Alaskan city of Anchorage, where the plane also stopped to refuel.
The plane carried staffers from the local US consulate, as well as other US citizens. The screenings were carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The whole plane erupted in cheers when the crew said, `Welcome home to the United States,’ ” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink.
Quarantine on asylum-seeker island
The governments of Australia and New Zealand said they would work together to evacuate citizens from the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is situated. Evacuees are set to be quarantined on Christmas Island for up to 14 days. The remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean is best known for being used to hold asylum-seekers who had attempted to reach Australia by boat, as well as foreigners convicted of crimes in Australia awaiting deportation.
The European Union will fly citizens home aboard two French planes later this week. South Korea and Mongolia have planned similar evacuations.
Canada and the Philippines are among the other countries monitoring the situation and weighing options to get their citizens home.
Many countries have urged their citizens to “reconsider” all trips planned to China. UK airline British Airways on Wednesday suspended all flights to and from the country.