TOKYO — A charter jet evacuating the first group of Japanese nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of a deadly virus outbreak, arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.
The evacuation of the 206 people will be followed by further charter flights to bring back home hundreds more Japanese who have asked for help to leave the city.
The new pneumonia-causing coronavirus has already claimed at least 132 lives and infected about 6,000 people in China while also spreading globally, with cases confirmed in Japan, the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
"We are very relieved," Takayuki Kato, one of the passengers who arrived at Haneda airport around 8:40 am, told reporters.
Japanese medical personnel checked on the passengers' conditions during the evacuation and four were found to have either a fever or cough and will be sent to a designated medical institution for infectious diseases, the Tokyo metropolitan government said.
Although showing no symptoms, the remaining passengers will be bused to the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine to be tested for the coronavirus, according to government officials.
Even if they test negative, they will be asked to stay indoors for two weeks and be vigilant for any sign of symptoms, the officials said.
Prior to the plane's arrival, five tourist buses and about 20 emergency vehicles were on standby at the airport.
As of Tuesday morning, there were about 650 Japanese nationals who had requested evacuation from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, where the virus was first identified.
A second charter flight for Japanese nationals may leave Japan around 8 pm Wednesday, a government official said, and further flights are expected to be arranged.
China has imposed a virtual lockdown on Wuhan and other cities in Hubei Province in an effort to contain the outbreak during the Lunar New Year holiday.
The plane carrying the first Japanese evacuees left Japan on Tuesday night, also delivering relief goods requested by China including masks and protective suits.
Many other countries are trying to evacuate citizens from Wuhan. The United States sent a plane to the Chinese city on Tuesday to evacuate diplomats and citizens, with South Korea saying it will do the same on Thursday and Friday.— KYODO