While other nations’ evacuation efforts have been flustered by red tape, Singapore sent a budget airline to rescue 92 people from the Chinese city of Wuhan where they had been caught inside a viral outbreak exclusion zone.
The city-state’s Foreign Ministry announced today that the sequestered Singaporeans boarded a plane belonging to Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost carrier. They landed at about 11:40am on Flight TR121, according to public flight data.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan expressed “appreciation” to his Chinese counterpart for “facilitating the safe return of these Singaporeans,” the ministry’s statement read.
The Singaporeans were accompanied by consular officers and will undergo medical screening at Changi Airport. Those showing symptoms will be taken to hospitals while the rest will be quarantined for two weeks.
“Those with fever or respiratory symptoms will be taken to designated hospitals for further examination, while the remaining passengers, including the MFA Consular Officers who facilitated the return of these Singaporeans from Wuhan, will be quarantined for 14 days,” the ministry’s statement said.
While China reportedly has no objections to evacuation by civilian aircraft, it has balked at allowing foreign military into its territory.
Japan and the United States have already airlifted hundreds aboard commercial carriers as confirmed infections shot past those of SARS nearly two decades ago. Thailand, Malaysia and Australia are among nations still awaiting permission from Beijing.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said yesterday that China does not allow military flights into its territory to retrieve foreign nationals. A commercial aircraft belonging to All Nippon Airways was used yesterday to transport more than 200 Japanese out of Wuhan. A chartered airliner – Kalita Air – evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan to Alaska.
Singapore has counted its 10th case of Wuhan coronavirus after three more were publicly confirmed yesterday.
The total number of 2019-nCoV cases confirmed in China is now more than that of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in 2003, when there were around 5,000. The country’s National Health Commission reported nearly 8,000 confirmed cases and 170 deaths as of Thursday morning.
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