Australia

Qantas flight from Wuhan returns but hundreds of Australians remain 'trapped' in coronavirus epicentre

Ying Wang and her children. Source: Supplied

Australians evacuated from the epicentre of the coronavirus in China have landed in WA.

A Qantas flight has evacuated more than 240 Australians out of Wuhan, but hundreds of others remain "trapped" in the coronavirus epicentre.

The 747 landed at an RAAF base near Exmouth on Monday evening and a military aircraft will take evacuees to Christmas Island for 14 days of quarantine. 

The plane lands in WA.
The plane lands in WA.
SBS News

But the federal government previously said 600 Australian permanent residents and citizens were in Wuhan and surrounds, meaning that at least 360 are still stuck there.

Ying Wang and her family are among them.

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Australians remain 'trapped' in coronavirus epicentre
Australians remain 'trapped' in coronavirus epicentre

Ms Wang has lived in Australia for 18 years and is a permanent resident. Her two children, aged one and three, are Australian citizens.

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told her they were "waitlisted" for the next available flight.

"We want to get out of here as soon as possible," she said.

We want to get out of here as soon as possible

Ying Wang

"We've been talking about this evacuation plan for about a week now."

Ms Wang said she rang DFAT on Monday and "there was no update about when the next flight will be arriving in Wuhan".

"But they did mention that there's a chance we will be put on a New Zealand flight," she said.

Ying Wang and her children are stuck in China.
Ying Wang and her children are stuck in China.
Supplied

The family returned to China for Lunar New Year and was due to come back to Melbourne last week but they remain in "lockdown".

Ms Wang said "everyone is too scared to go out" and quick supermarket visits were her only time outside the house.

"A few days ago there was a [news] report saying we are entering the peak of the outbreak ... this week."

Ying Wang's two children - both Australian citizens.
Ying Wang's two children - both Australian citizens.
Supplied

Earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government would "consider what might be necessary" when asked if a second flight would be organised from Australia to Wuhan.

"It is obviously a very complex process," she said.

Passengers who left on Monday underwent health checks before boarding the flight and wore surgical masks.

There was limited food and beverage service to minimise interaction between crew and passengers and the plane will undergo a three-day cleaning process when it returns.

Passengers will be quarantined at the Christmas Island detention centre.
Passengers will be quarantined at the Christmas Island detention centre.
AAP

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the plan is for passengers to be kept in small family groups on Christmas Island.

"There won't be a full mingling," he said.

"If someone does get unwell their family might have to start again for 14 days but we wouldn't want to expose the whole group to that."

Passengers wearing protective masks arrive at Sydney International Airport.
Passengers wearing protective masks arrive at Sydney International Airport.
AAP

There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, and more than 17,000 cases and 360 deaths globally.

Foreign travellers who have left or passed through China will be denied entry to Australia to limit the spread of the virus.

Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, dependents, legal guardians and spouses, are exempt from the restrictions.

Some 71 travellers to Australia were not allowed to board their plane in China overnight and 12 flights were cancelled on Sunday.

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