30 Jan 2020

NZer in Wuhan awaits evacuation: 'I just don't want to spread the virus'

5:38 am on 30 January 2020

A New Zealander trapped in Wuhan is relieved that she has a way out of the city at the centre of the virus.

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-year-old daughter Elysse are waiting for the evacuation of New Zealanders from Wuhan. Photo: Supplied/Lily

Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people, has been the source of the deadly coronavirus outbreak spreading mostly across China but also internationally.

The government has announced it will evacuate New Zealanders from the city in conjunction with Australia, either by chartered commercial plane or military plane.

Details are being worked through by officials in New Zealand and in China.

Lily Gao was visiting her parents in Wuhan for Chinese New Year when the city went into lockdown and said the evacuation was great news, but there would be logistical difficulties to be overcome.

"For example there are traffic restrictions - cars are not allowed to go out," she said. "Also some people are staying in other cities of Hubei province - not only in Wuhan. They are also trapped there and they also hope to come back to New Zealand soon."

She and her two-year-old had not left her parents' house since 23 January.

Gao said she would be happy to be quarantined somewhere such as Christmas Island if it meant she could return to New Zealand without the virus.

Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, 2000km from the mainland. Australia has seven cases of coronavirus, with a second case in Victoria and the first in Queensland now confirmed.

(200127) -- BEIJING, Jan. 27, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Aerial photo taken on Jan. 26, 2020 shows the Yellow Crane Pavilion and the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province.

The coronavirus originated in Wuhan. Photo: AFP

"I don't mind going there, because if we keep staying in Wuhan we don't know how long the city will stay locked down, so I'd prefer to go to Christmas Island.

"If we go back in one aeroplane, so people may carry this coronavirus, which would be easy to spread on the aeroplane. So for the safety of my husband I'd prefer to stay away from home for two weeks.

"I'm not so worried about myself, because I'm confident with the medical [system]. I just don't want to spread the virus to anyone else, that's my concern."

Gao said she understood the difficulty of organising an evacuation with New Zealanders all over the city and was not expecting it to happen immediately.

"It's a big relief for me. Otherwise I don't know when we could come back [to New Zealand] - that's more stressful for me at the moment."

Fifty-three New Zealanders are registered as being in Wuhan city at the moment. About 600 Australians are registered as being in Hubei province, including about 140 Australian children currently in Wuhan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her counterpart Scott Morrison confirmed there would be a "joint ANZAC assisted departure of Australians and New Zealanders from Wuhan".

"Specific details of the evacuation plan, including the medical protocols that will be applied to returning New Zealanders, and access arrangements on the ground in China are being worked through by officials."

Morrison said the Australians would be quarantined on Christmas Island before returning to the mainland, and children and elderly people would get priority.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs