Updated: Feb 1
With the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus, Wuhan, China is under indefinite lockdown to prevent further spreading of the virus to other parts of the world. As a result, several airlines have cancelled their flights to Wuhan and other parts of mainland China, with Hong Kong and other governments around the world warning their citizens against travel to China. While Chinese nationals are forbidden to exit the country, foreign nationals stuck in Wuhan can leave taking necessary precautions. In light of this, special flights are being conducted by different countries to evacuate their stranded citizens from Wuhan.
Cargo airline Kalitta Air recently fitted seats in one of its Boeing 747-400Fs to evacuate about 200 Americans from Wuhan. The flights departed Oscoda, Michigan on January 26th, 2020 and flew to Wuhan via Anchorage (ANC/PANC) and Seoul (ICN/RKSI). The special 747 departed Wuhan on the morning of January 29th 2020, landed at Anchorage (ANC/PANC) for a fuel stop, and continued to Riverside March Air Reserve Base in California. All passengers were screened twice in Anchorage, where CDC Officials cleared them of any threats and allowed all passengers to continue onto California, where they were to be screened again. The passengers may remain under quarantine until each one is cleared of the disease.
The Indian Government is also sending a special Air India Boeing 747-400 to Wuhan on January 31st, 2020 to evacuate stranded Indians from the epicenter of the disease. The aircraft will have five doctors and special medical kits on board and will be a no service flight, where water and food will be put in seatback pockets to ensure no contact of the cabin crew with passengers and masks will be provided for all.
Ashwani Lohani, The Chairman of Air India said, “No service will take place in the plane. Whatever food is there will be kept in seat pockets. As there will be no service, there will be no interaction (between cabin crew and passengers). Masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers. For our crew, we have also arranged complete protective gear. A total of five doctors from the Health Ministry are also going... The plane will be there (at Wuhan airport) for 2-3 hours.”
South Korea also sent a charter flight to evacuate South Koreans from Wuhan. The chartered Boeing 747 landed at Gimpo International Airport in Gimpo, South Korea in the early hours of January 31st 2020 carrying 368 passengers. The evacuees were transferred to quarantine facilities in Asan and Jincheon, two cities about 80 kilometers south of the capital city of Seoul. They were greeted by many welcome signs by residents of the areas.
Additionally, the European Union (EU) is also sending two chartered A380s to China. One will be flown by the Hi Fly Airbus A380 to Wuhan today to help around 350 Europeans. The A380 will first fly to Paris (CDG/LFPG) to pick up medical kits and specially trained medical professionals. From Paris, it will be flown to Wuhan via Hanoi, Vietnam where it will halt briefly to refuel. Passengers will be boarded at Wuhan and the flight will return to Paris where the passengers will likely be kept under quarantine. The flight number for this special mission is HFM421.
The death toll of the Coronavirus has risen to over 200 with almost 10,000 worldwide cases reported, forcing the WHO to declare the outbreak a Global Health Emergency.