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Europeans flee China, France urges help for poor nations

Posted at 7:01 AM, Feb 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-02 16:01:10-05

A second French-chartered airliner carrying 300 evacuees from China flew to Europe on Sunday as more foreigners fled the rapidly spreading new virus.

The wide-body Airbus A380 landed at a military base in southern France with passengers who included citizens of France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Czech Republic and some African countries.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said 36 people exhibited potential symptoms of the coronavirus. Sixteen of them were sent home to other European countries, while the other 20 stayed in France and are being tested.

Those who test positive for the virus will be hospitalized, and the others will be quarantined for 14 days, Buzyn told reporters. Passengers from the first airlift from China organized by the French government are in isolation at a Mediterranean resort in the town of Carry-le-Rouet.

As of Sunday night, Europe had 25 known cases of people who have been infected with the virus that first emerged in central China's city of Wuhan: Germany has 10; France has six; Russia, Italy and the U.K have two each and Finland, Sweden and Spain each have one.

Two people flown back to Germany were found to be infected with the virus, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. That brought the total of cases in Germany to 10.

Spahn said the two were symptom-free both when they left Wuhan and when they arrived in Frankfurt with 126 others on Saturday afternoon. They were “doing well at the moment” in quarantine at a Frankfurt hospital Sunday, the minister said.

Of those infected in France, Buzyn said a person who had been in intensive care had moved into a regular hospital room. Another person remains in intensive care in France, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.

Buzyn supported calls for more international cooperation via the G-7 group of industrialized countries and the EU.

“We favor anything that would allow better international coordination, a better exchange of information," Buzyn said. “All industrialized countries who have more robust health care and health alert systems should be able to cooperate, and to help other countries and perhaps on other continents that may have more difficulties.”

Italian officials said Sunday that an air force plane had set out for Wuhan to bring home 67 Italian nationals. The plane is expected to land at a military airport near Rome on Monday morning. Foreign Ministry officials said the plane was also bringing medical supplies to Wuhan, at China's request.

The ministry also said permission had been given for cargo flights to fly between Italy and China.

Separately, the special commissioner in charge of coordinating Italy's efforts during the viral outbreak said consideration was being given to letting a handful of Chinese commercial airliners fly to Italy to pick up Chinese tourists and other Chinese citizens stranded in Italy by the suspension of commercial flights.

The commissioner, Angelo Borrelli, was quoted by Italian media as saying that Italy would like those flights, if approved, not to fly to Italy empty, but instead to bring back Italians from China. There are an estimated 500 other Italians in China who apparently expressed an interest in returning home during the outbreak.

Meanwhile, an estimated 3,000 tourists and others from China are stranded in Italy and want to return to home, according to Italian media.

The death toll in China climbed past 300 and the number of infections rose above 14,000 . The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death from the virus outside of China — that of a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan who was hospitalized Jan. 25 with a fever, cough and sore throat.

On Saturday night, a Turkish military transport plane carrying 42 people arrived in Ankara from Wuhan. The 32 Turkish, six Azerbaijani, three Georgian and one Albanian nationals will remain under observation in a hospital for 14 days, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Twenty Turkish personnel who participated in the evacuation will also be kept in quarantine.