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Stranded Australians Leave Coronavirus Epicenter in China

FILE - A man stands in front of a screen showing that multiple departure flights have been cancelled following the outbreak of the coronavirus, at an airport in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Jan. 23, 2020.

Almost 300 Australians have left the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan, China on a chartered evacuation flight. They will fly to western Australia before being put into quarantine on Christmas Island, a remote territory in the Indian Ocean. Australia has confirmed 12 cases of the virus as of Feb. 2.

This is the first of two flights that will take several hundred Australian citizens and permanent residents out of the locked-down city of Wuhan.

They will spend two weeks in isolation at Australia’s offshore detention center on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, where they will be monitored by a team of specialist doctors and nurses.

Other Australians refused the government’s offer of help to leave Wuhan, deciding instead to stay in China and wait for the global health emergency to pass.

But Gloria Zeng, a mother from Sydney, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that it was important to head home for family reasons.

“I got a lot of pressure from my husband, and he said, ‘Oh, the situation is not really good. Other countries start to close the borders.’ He said, if we stay over here probably it would take a couple of months to get out from Wuhan. So he started to become really nervous.”

The evacuation aircraft will touch down Monday at Exmouth in western Australia. Those on board will transfer to smaller charter flights for the four-hour trip to Christmas Island.

In New Zealand, a military training base in Auckland is being turned into a quarantine center for citizens returning from Wuhan.

About 70 New Zealanders will be flown out of the Chinese city in the next few days on a government-chartered flight. They face compulsory quarantine for two weeks at the navy base.

In an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, all foreign citizens who've traveled from or through China won’t be allowed into New Zealand for two weeks. Other international passengers are facing stricter checks at airports.