Coronavirus: Aussie evacuees land, Alan Joyce says planes safer than public transport

The first group of Aussie evacuees out of Wuhan, where coronavirus originated, have landed on Christmas Island, as it was announced the second evacuation flight would stop via New Zealand.

The chartered Qantas flight carried 243 passengers, 14 crew, 4 pilots and officials from the department of health to RAAF Base Learmonth near Exmouth yesterday afternoon around 4pm as the 747 could not land on the small Christmas Island airstrip. From there, evacuees were transferred to two smaller planes and landed on Christmas Island at 9:01pm.

According to ABC News, WA chief health officer Andrew Robertson said it was unlikely any passengers would have developed coronavirus during their flight.

“They were not allowed on the plane if they were unwell,” he said.

This comes as the Sydney Morning Herald reported that dozens of Australian evacuees will leave Wuhan on an Air New Zealand flight today as part of a coordinated effort with the New Zealand government.

The Australians will join 70 New Zealanders at a quarantined military base outside of Auckland before being transferred to Christmas Island.

Cases of the virus have reached over 17,318, with 362 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Channel 9 people have less risk of being infected with coronavirus on an aircraft than other forms of public transport. Joyce said the air inside an aircraft was replaced every five minutes with medical-grade filters used to remove 99 per cent of particles, including viruses.

“An A380 has 20 of (the filters) on board … so it’s a lot safer than public transport, a lot safer than restaurants, a lot safer than being in the office,” Joyce said.

Joyce also confirmed Qantas would continue to run flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until 9 February.

“I think (coronavirus) is going to be a big impact on the tourism industry,” he added.

For us, it’s a relatively small part of our international operation … but I do think there’s going to be a big impact on the economy and everyone has to support tourism as a consequence.”

Aussies stranded on cruise ship 

ABC News has reported an Adelaide couple are among the 2,000 people onboard a cruise ship stuck in the South China Sea after it was denied entry to the Philippines for fear of coronavirus.

The Holland America cruise ship, Westerdam, was on its way from Hong Kong to Manila when the captain announced it would not be allowed into the Philippines. Philippines president, Roderigo Duterte has temporarily banned travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau from disembarking in the country after it became the first country outside of China to record a death from the virus.

Boeing donates medical masks

In good news, Boeing has donated 250,000 medical-grade respiratory masks to address medical supply shortages in China.

The masks will be provided to local health officials battling the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, and Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province.

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