Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed the government is preparing to evacuate Australians from China’s Hubei province and quarantine them on Christmas Island.
About 400 Australians have registered for evacuation from Wuhan. The coronavirus has caused 132 deaths so far, most of them in Hubei province.
There are currently 6000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, and the number of suspected cases has risen to more than 9000.
“We have taken the decision this morning to prepare a plan for an operation to provide some assisted departures for isolated and vulnerable Australians in Wuhan and the Hubei province,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference in Canberra this morning.
“I stress there is a rather limited window here and we are moving very, very swiftly to ensure we can put this plan together.”
He said the operation would proceed on a “last in, first out” basis, meaning Australians who arrived in China most recently will be the main focus of the evacuations.
“For those who have been there who do not have an established support infrastructure where they’re living, they would have been shorter term travellers to that area, they would not have been living there for many years, and we’re particularly focused on the more vulnerable components of that population,” the Prime Minister said.
The PM also revealed that one million facemasks would be released from the national stockpile, with the number seeming low due to the recent bushfires across NSW and Victoria.