February 5, 2020 / 9:16 AM / 12 days ago

Coronavirus evacuee plane from Wuhan arrives in New Zealand

SYDNEY, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A plane load of New Zealanders, Australians and Pacific Islanders evacuated from China’s Wuhan city arrived in New Zealand’s Auckland on Wednesday, where they will be quarantined to prevent the spread of a new flu-like coronavirus, officials said.

The Air New Zealand Ltd flight with 190 evacuees, three consular staff and five New Zealand health officials landed about 6 p.m. local time (0500 GMT). The New Zealanders will be put in quarantine for two weeks.

Also among the passengers were 35 Australians and Australian residents with Chinese passports who would be returned to Australia, the authorities added.

“People on board are all well and I’m pleased that the Ministry of Health has now taken responsibility for them, and we will be taking care of them for the 14 days they are here in isolation,” New Zealand director of general health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters at the airport.

While the Australians would be transferred to an unspecified location in Australia without entering New Zealand, the Pacific Islanders would be held in isolation with the New Zealanders at a military base in Whangaparaoa, 25 km (15 miles) north of Auckland.

Earlier this week, 243 Australians arrived in the country after being evacuated from Wuhan, and all but two were taken to the Indian Ocean territory Christmas Island for two weeks, the maximum incubation period for the virus, officials said.

Australia has said it may order another evacuation flight from Wuhan, but New Zealand’s Bloomfield said the government had no immediate plans for further evacuations, although there were more New Zealanders in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus, which has been in lockdown.

The newly identified coronavirus which first appeared in Wuhan in December has killed nearly 500 people in China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines. (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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