Australia will evacuate its citizens from Wuhan, China the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and quarantine them on Christmas Island, according to a proposal on January 29.
Officials say that at least 600 Australians will be evacuated in a joint-venture rescue plan with New Zealand, giving priority to children and the elderly. New Zealand has about 50 citizens trapped in the virus epicenter in China.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “vulnerable” Australians, including children, the elderly as well as visitors to Wuhan surrounding Hubei province would be prioritized in extraction efforts. “We have prepared this morning, to prepare a plan for an operation to provide some assisted departures for isolated and vulnerable departures in Wuhan and Hubei province,” Morrison said on January 28.
The evacuees will be flown in with Australian airline Qantas Airways and they will be isolated for at least 14 days.
Two weeks is reportedly the standard incubation period for patients to exhibit symptoms of coronavirus infection.
Where is Christmas Island?
Christmas Island is located to the south of Java, Indonesia. It is normally used to hold asylum seekers.
The island will now be assigned as a quarantine area to the evacuees from Wuhan. “We will be standing up Christmas Island as a quarantine area. We will be also be pulling in the AUSMAT [Australian Medical Assistance Team] team to provide the medical support and that would be supplemented as is necessary by other defense support,” Morrison said.
Further efforts undertaken
Australia has also stepped up its efforts to fight the coronavirus, including the release of a million masks. “Steps taken today are based on the medical advice that we are receiving. We are releasing one million masks, from the stockpile through the PHN [Primary Health Network] network,” Morrison said.
The prime minister added that travel to China is to be reconsidered and information regarding the virus should be obtained only from authorized channels.
Five coronavirus cases in Australia confirmed
Five people in Australia have been confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus as of January 29, including four in New South Wales (NSW) and one in Victoria.
Authorities have advised those showing symptoms of the virus infection – which are similar to flu – to isolate themselves. “If you’re showing symptoms, keep yourself in isolation, keep yourself away from other people, wear [a] mask if you’ve got one available, and make the contact [with health professionals],” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.