February 4, 2020 / 12:11 AM / 14 days ago

Australian Wuhan evacuees arrive on Christmas Island - media

SYDNEY, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A plane load of Australians evacuated from China’s Wuhan city arrived in the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined to prevent the spread of a new flu-like coronavirus, media reported on Tuesday.

The Qantas Airways Ltd 747 carrying 243 passengers, 14 crew, four pilots and officials from the Department of Health landed at a military airbase about 1,200 kms (746 miles) north of Perth, before being transferred on two smaller planes to Christmas Island, the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) reported.

The first of the chartered flights landed on Christmas Island at 9:01 p.m. (1401 GMT) on Monday, the broadcaster added. Officials were not immediately available to confirm the arrival of the second charter flight.

The Australian government has said it plans to keep evacuees quarantined on Christmas Island for two weeks, the maximum incubation period of the newly identified virus which has sparked a global health emergency and killed more than 400 people in China, mostly in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

Another evacuation flight chartered by Air New Zealand Ltd with 70 New Zealanders and an unspecified number of Australians on board had left Wuhan and was expected to arrive in Auckland on Tuesday, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Australian citizens would be transferred from Auckland to Christmas Island, the ABC quoted New Zealand Health Minister David Clark as saying.

One of the passengers on the Qantas flight was transferred to a hospital on mainland Australia because of an unrelated medical condition but was being held in isolation, the ABC reported.

The Department of Home Affairs, which is overseeing the evacuation, did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking confirmation of the report.

Wuhan in Hubei province has been in lockdown to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 414 people in Hubei. The first death from the virus outside China was reported on Sunday in the Philippines.

There were 600 Australians registered in the Hubei region as of last week, and the Australian government has said it will consider further evacuations if needed.

Australia on Saturday followed the United States in barring entry to all foreign nationals travelling from mainland China and raised its travel warning for China to the highest level, advising people against visiting the country at all. (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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