30 Jan 2020

New Zealanders in Hubei province hope for transport via Wuhan deal

6:50 pm on 30 January 2020

New Zealanders stuck in the wider Hubei province are appealing for more information on how they get to the city of Wuhan - the departure point for the planned evacuation.

Anna An and husband George Shuai, daughter Rachel and son Jacob.

Anna An and husband George Shuai, daughter Rachel and son Jacob. Photo: Anna An

There are 163 people registered on the government's SafeTravel website as being in Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

However, many more are in the wider Hubei province Wuhan is the capital of.

Auckland woman Anna An is in the city of Yichang, about four hours drive from Wuhan, visiting her parents with her husband and two young children and said she was wondering how they would get to Wuhan for departure - given all cities in Hubei are in lockdown.

Still, the government's announcement came as a relief, she said.

"I think that's very helpful and it has given us hope, but we're not sure where we're going to be sent to and what we're going to do there so we still have some concerns," she said.

"I want to know what kind of flight we're going to use, place we're going to be sent to, also the cost as well. If the government could think about the children, particularly little children, [that would be great]."

Another Auckland woman, Victoria Chen, shared that concern. She's in Tianmen with her 1-year-old son, two hours drive from Wuhan.

Victoria Chen and her son Bryan, 1.

Victoria Chen and her one-year-old son Bryan. Photo: Victoria Chen

"The cities in Hubei are all in quarantine and we're not allowed to go outside and go to other cities. They have strict travel restrictions. We want to know how can we get to Wuhan. The New Zealand government needs to negotiate with the Chinese government about how we can get there."

Chen said she and her son needed an assurance they would be safe from any potential infection during the evacuation.

"I'm concerned about his health as well. If we're going to be quarantined, I'm wondering do they have enough health support to help us?"

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was not clear yet when the charter flight from Wuhan would take off.

"As you can imagine, the Chinese authorities have demands from a range of countries trying to assist their citizens to get out. There's been only a handful so far that have, so there's quite a bit to work through," she said.

Officials from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are developing procedures for pre-departure health screening, infection control in-flight and details for quarantine once they arrive in New Zealand.

A spokesperson said those who took a seat on the plane would be required to pay a nominal fee, however the government would absorb most of the cost.

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