National / Science & Health

Japan plans fourth Wuhan evacuation flight later this week as virus-infected hit 20

Kyodo

The government plans to send another charter flight to evacuate Japanese nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak, in the middle of the week or soon after, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The fourth government-chartered aircraft to travel to Wuhan will collect some 140 people that remain in the city and nearby areas who wish to return to Japan.

The Japanese Embassy in China notified them of the plan by email on Saturday, adding that the government is asking Beijing to allow their spouses with Chinese citizenship to travel on the flight.

More than 560 Japanese have returned since Wednesday, when the first evacuation flight arrived in Tokyo, as the outbreak of the deadly virus continues to spread across China and to other countries.

The total number of people infected with the virus in Japan has risen to 20, with some of the returnees testing positive for the pneumonia-causing virus.

Chinese health authorities said Sunday the number of infections rose 2,590 from the previous day to 14,380 in mainland China, with the death toll rising 45 to at least 304. Most of the fatalities have occurred in Hubei province, that capital of which is Wuhan.

Abe on Saturday stressed the need to make sure people across the country have access to necessary medical examinations and supplies, including masks, as infections have been confirmed in various parts of the country.

The government officially classified the virus as a designated infectious disease on Saturday, enabling authorities to enact, among other measures, compulsory hospitalization when necessary. Taxpayers’ money will cover the costs of treating patients forced to stay in hospitals.

To prevent the deadly virus from spreading further, foreign nationals who have been to Hubei province within two weeks — the virus’s estimated incubation period — prior to their arrival to Japan, will be barred. They are now required to declare at airports if they have been to Hubei during that period, Japanese officials said.

Holders of Chinese passports issued in the central Chinese province, the capital of which is the virus-hit city of Wuhan, will also be prohibited from entering the country in principle.

They are subject to the precautionary measures whether they display symptoms or not.

Government officials say it is not a blanket ban on holders of Hubei-issued Chinese passports, noting that exceptions will be made under special circumstances.

But it is still unclear, for instance, whether a case in which a person has a Chinese passport issued in Hubei but lives in a different province or country will warrant an exception. Uncertainty also remains over whether a Chinese national with a passport from Hubei who is married to a Japanese will be allowed to enter Japan.

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