The Government has announced it has chartered an Air New Zealand aircraft to evacuate New Zealanders from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
According to a statement from Foreign Minister Winston Peters, the aircraft will have capacity for around 300 passengers and will fly from Wuhan in China to New Zealand.
Officials will be working through operational requirements with Air New Zealand and Chinese authorities.
The statement states that New Zealanders in the Hubei region who are registered on Safetravel have been emailed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to register interest in the flight, which is subject to Chinese Government approval.
“We are pleased to be have been able to offer this assistance to New Zealanders in a challenging situation,” Mr Peters said.
“We encourage all New Zealanders in the Hubei region to register on Safetravel and ensure all their details are accurate and up to date. This will give us a better understanding of the level of demand for this flight.
“New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority.
“This is a complex operation as we work through all the necessary requirements but we are working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible.”
Officials are currently developing procedures for pre-departure health screening of passengers, infection control inflight, and isolation of all passengers arriving in New Zealand for up to two weeks.
According to the statement, those who do take a seat on the plane will be required to pay a nominal fee, however the Government will absorb most of the cost of the charter flight.
Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a joint ANZAC operation to evacuate citizens from Wuhan.
The death toll from coronavirus rose to 170 today within China, with 7711 cases reported.