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28 Feb 2020 14:46
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  •   Home > News > International

    Australia's Wuhan coronavirus evacuees notified of new Qantas departure time subject to Chinese Government approval

    As Australian citizens prepare to be evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre in Wuhan, authorities are investigating whether there is a coronavirus case on Christmas Island.

    Australians who have been stranded in Wuhan are now set to leave the coronavirus epicentre at around 3:15am (AEDT) Sunday morning on a second Qantas flight.

    The latest group of evacuees will then be taken to Darwin on the flight, which was delayed because of a lack of approval from Chinese authorities.

    On Friday an email from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was sent to passengers telling them that official clearance for the flight had not been secured.

    The email told passengers to return to where they were staying and wait for further information as DFAT worked with Chinese authorities to reschedule the flight for Saturday.

    Passengers were alerted to the new flight time in an email but were warned they will need to meet strict criteria and that the flight taking off remains subject to final Chinese Government approval, and operational requirements.

    Passengers were also reminded they must meet conditions imposed on them by the Chinese and Australian Governments.

    The email also advises those who are scheduled for the flight that if someone in their family has an elevated temperature they should consider their options before they leave home.

    "If a fever is detected at a checkpoint, it is possible they will be directed to a Chinese medical facility and not allowed to board the flight," the email read.

    "The Chinese authorities consider 37.3 degrees temperature as the point you will require medical assistance.

    "Your temperature will be tested by Chinese officials, likely at a checkpoint prior to arrival at the airport and during check-in process."

    Conditions on the plane are set to be different to normal with all passengers told they "need" to wear the facemasks which will be supplied to them and change masks every two hours.

    If passengers need to sneeze or cough they have been instructed to do so into their elbow after removing their mask and then use alcohol-based hand rub after any such incident.

    When the evacuees do get out of China and touch down in Australia, they will be quarantined at an unused work camp near Darwin.

    Possible case on Christmas Island

    The previous group of evacuated Australians are on Christmas Island, where it has now been revealed there are fears one evacuee may have coronavirus after presenting with symptoms.

    That evacuee was later identified as a child by Australia's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Paul Kelly, on Saturday afternoon.

    "I won't go into details for privacy reasons, but the person is well, it is certainly not a serious illness at this stage," Professor Kelly said.

    "They have been further isolated from other people that are on the island, and the appropriate steps of infection control and indeed medical care are being taken."

    If that child does test positive to coronavirus, there could be a longer quarantine period for those who have come into contact with them.

    A sample provided by the evacuee is being flown to the Australian mainland to be tested as a precaution.

    Inside the centre, the evacuees have been divided into smaller groups in different compounds and have been directed not to come within 1.5 metres of one another in order to limit the spread of any infection.

    It comes as equipment that will facilitate rapid testing for the virus in the detention centre is due to arrive on Christmas Island about Monday.

    Earlier this week the more than 300 Australians who remain trapped in the locked-down city were asked to register interest in a possible third assisted departure flight earlier this week.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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