30 Jan 2020

Air NZ plane chartered to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

6:56 pm on 30 January 2020

The government has announced it's chartering an Air New Zealand plane to evacuate New Zealanders in the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during a stand-up interview after attending a Police cadet graduation 21 November 2019.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the aircraft will have capacity for 300 people. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the aircraft would have capacity for 300, and will fly from Wuhan to New Zealand.

Officials are working through operational requirements, and the flight is subject to Chinese Government approval.

There are 163 New Zealanders registered as being in the city on Safetravel and they have been emailed to register their interest in the flight.

"We are pleased to be have been able to offer this assistance to New Zealanders in a challenging situation," he said.

"We encourage all New Zealanders in the Hubei region to register on Safetravel and ensure all their details are accurate and up to date. This will give us a better understanding of the level of demand for this flight.

"New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority."

Air New Zealand plane taking off from Wellington Airport.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Peters said this was a complex operation but the government was working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible.

Consular teams are working with health officials to ensure the risks of transmission of the coronavirus to New Zealand is carefully managed.

Officials are currently working on developing procedures for pre-departure health screening, infection control inflight, and isolation for all passengers arriving in New Zealand for up to two weeks.

Peters said that those who took a seat on the plane would have to pay a nominal fee, but the government would absorb most of the cost.

He said any additional seats on the flight would be offered to Pacific Island and Australian citizens.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was also considering how it could help citizens from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

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