New Zealand announced Thursday it will charter a 300-seat aircraft to evacuate nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
There are 53 New Zealanders confirmed to be in Wuhan but the actual number is believed to be more than double that.
“New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters said, adding that the flight was still subject to China’s approval.
“This is a complex operation as we work through all the necessary requirements but we are working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible.”
The announcement to charter an aircraft from Air New Zealand, part-owned by the government, came a day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government was working with Canberra to assist the departure of New Zealanders and Australians from Wuhan.
However, Canberra’s decision to keep evacuees in quarantine on Christmas Island for 14 days did not sit well with New Zealanders.
Peters told Radio New Zealand he was “looking at quarantine options within New Zealand”.
He said officials were developing procedures for pre-departure health screening of passengers from Wuhan, infection control inflight, and the isolation of all passengers arriving in New Zealand for up to two weeks.
People who do take a seat on the plane will be required to pay a nominal fee, however the government will absorb most of the cost.
There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Zealand although a student has been placed in isolation in an Auckland hospital while he undergoes tests.
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