29 Jan 2020

New Zealanders trapped in Wuhan: 'We don't want to stay here'

8:24 am on 29 January 2020

New Zealanders in Wuhan are asking the government to urgently get them out of the Chinese city that is the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus.

New Zealand resident Lily GAO and her two and half year old daughter Elysse are one of those who stuck in Wuhan.

New Zealand resident Lily Gao and her two-and-half-year-old daughter Elysse are one of those who are stuck in Wuhan. Photo: Supplied/Lily

More than 50 Kiwis are registered as being in Wuhan, according to the SafeTravel website, but the city has been locked down to limit the disease's spread.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Tuesday it was exploring a possible evacuation including a chartered flight out of the city or assistance from the Defence Force. "This is a challenging situation with many issues to be worked through logistically, and with the Chinese authorities," it said.

A New Zealander in Wuhan, Lily Gao, said she wanted New Zealand to arrange a flight for her out of the city.

She said had struggled to buy diapers for her three-year-old daughter and get health check-ups for her pregnancy.

"We don't want to stay here," Gao said, adding that her daughter Elysse was growing frustrated with their self-quarantine.

"She often say 'oh, I miss my daddy, I want to see my friends.' I hope she can be patient for a little bit longer."

Julie, who lives in Auckland, is desperate to get her husband out of Wuhan, where he is trapped in a hotel.

She said the New Zealand embassy in Beijing had secured permission from China's Foreign Ministry for him to leave Wuhan, but that New Zealand still had to arrange transport for him.

"It's all come to a standstill at our end," she said.

"He's in a hotel that all the heating is turned off... They're in the middle of winter at the moment. It was 2C before, outside. He's cold."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would not comment on individual cases but said it had responded to about 20 requests for consular assistance.

Hope could come from Australia, which is deploying dozens of officials to Wuhan to assess the situation.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday flagged a possible collaboration, saying he would "work closely with the New Zealand government in supporting both their and our nationals who have been caught up in this event."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Tuesday she did not want to get ahead of the logistics but was in close contact with Australia.

An updated notice on the ministry's Safe Travel website last night advised travellers not to go to Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. The advisory said the New Zealand government has limited ability to provide emergency services to New Zealanders in the province.

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