EU begins evacuating citizens from China
European countries are preparing a joint evacuation of their citizens from China due to the coronavirus. An Airbus A380 will fly from Portugal to pick up 350 people from several European countries in China, including five Czechs. The European Union is coordinating the flight with the Chinese authorities.
Japan and the United States have already evacuated some of their citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease. South Korea, Australia, France, Britain, and Egypt intend to do so in the coming days. Authorities plan to quarantine the evacuees upon their return.
The European Commission said Wednesday that 600 Europeans need to be evacuated. Five of them are Czechs. Negotiations with France and Britain over transport is ongoing. Both Paris and London are planning to send their aircraft to China on Saturday, subject to permission from the Chinese authorities. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš also mentioned the possibility of sending a Czech government plane to China.
The virus has so far claimed 170 victims in China and infected over 7,800. Many countries, including the Czech Republic, have tightened measures to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.
Evacuation plans are being prepared at a time when airlines are restricting or totally canceling their flights to China. British Airways has canceled all direct flights to mainland China until the end of February. Already on Wednesday, the German company Lufthansa announced that it will immediately interrupt connections with mainland China until 9 February. For example, Iberia, SAS, and Finnair have also stopped flying to mainland China. So far, KLM or Air France has limited the number of flights. Prime Minister Babis said today that he is considering proposing to the government to ban all flights from China temporarily.