4 Feb 2020

New Zealanders going through rigorous testing before flight from Wuhan

6:21 am on 4 February 2020

New Zealanders stranded in Wuhan due to the city's deadly coronavirus outbreak will later today undergo rigourous testing before boarding a government-chartered plane to fly home.

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-a-half-year-old daughter Elysse were among those stuck in Wuhan. Photo: Supplied/Lily

Chinese authorities last night granted the Air New Zealand plane permission to land in Wuhan to evacuate the New Zealanders who've spent close to two weeks under lockdown there.

But some of them won't be able to breathe a sigh of relief until they finally touch down in Auckland tomorrow.

Lily Gao and her two-year-old daughter Elysse have been cooped up in her parents' house in Wuhan since the lockdown was imposed on 23 January. Elysse has had enough.

"On the one hand I'm worried about her getting bored - staying at home all day long. On the other hand, if she gets sick then she can't go to hospital because now there are too many coronavirus patients in the hospital."

The New Zealand Consulate contacted Gao yesterday with the news she'd been hoping for - if well enough, she and her daughter will be allowed to board the emergency flight that will take them back to Auckland and her husband.

It usually takes an hour to get to the airport from her parents house, but due to the health emergency it could take far longer.

"We found a friend who has a car who will take us there tomorrow. We'll have to arrive there before 4pm Chinese time tomorrow and, because there may be some checkpoints on the way to the airport there may be delays so we have to go there earlier."

Before they're allowed on the plane they'll need to undergo rigourous testing to ensure they aren't carrying the coronavirus.

"We need to sign a consent form for all of the risks we're undertaking. Also before boarding we need to have a health check to ensure all of us are healthy enough to get aboard."

When the evacuees arrive back in New Zealand, they'll need to spend two weeks in isolation at a seaside Defence Force training base on Auckland's Whangaparāoa Peninsula.

Gao isn't worried about spending a fortnight at the idyllic location.

"We saw the photos of the army base, it looks like a peaceful place. It also has medical systems there [and] I think we can stay there for our safety and also other people's safety," she said.

"After that we'll be safe to come home."

All foreign travellers who've been through China are now being refused entry to New Zealand due to the outbreak.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, and their immediate family, are allowed to enter the country but are being told to isolate themselves for 14 days after arrival.

At Auckland International Airport yesterday, face masks and hand sanitiser were must-have accessories, particularly for those arriving on the flights from Shanghai and Guangzhou.

One New Zealand teacher, who wished to only use her first name, Jane, says it was a nightmare getting home.

"I had a flight booked for Tuesday but Air New Zealand cancelled those flights so my flight changed to Sunday, midnight, but it was changed suddenly because I wasn't allowed to transit in Singapore on my way into New Zealand, and I didn't know that," she said.

"Finally I grabbed a China Eastern Airlines flight which was leaving at the same time - midnight, Shanghai, straight to Auckland."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it will review its restrictions on travellers from China every 48 hours.

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