TOKYO: The first Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of a deadly virus outbreak, arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday (Jan 28) aboard a charter plane, with four of them showing symptoms of fever or coughing.
Japan has confirmed seven patients, including a Japanese tour bus driver who had been infected after coming into contact with Chinese visitors - the first reported case of a possible transmission inside Japan, according to the health ministry.
"I was extremely worried that I was stuck there while the situation was changing very rapidly," Takeo Aoyama, a Nippon Steel employee, told reporters at the airport after being evacuated from Wuhan, which is in virtual lockdown.
"I feel really relieved now that I have been brought back in a speedy manner like this on a chartered flight," said Aoyama, who was wearing a mask.
The death toll from the coronavirus, believed to have originated in a Wuhan market which illegally sold wildlife, rose sharply to 132 on Wednesday, with nearly 1,500 new cases.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the four passengers evacuated with symptoms would undergo medical examinations at a hospital designated for infectious diseases, while the remaining passengers would be asked to return home or stay at a nearby hotel after a check-up at a separate hospital.
A fifth person later fell ill and was taken to a different hospital in Tokyo, the metropolitan government said.
When reached by Reuters, health ministry and other government officials could not say when the four passengers had started showing signs of illness. Suga said all 206 passengers had been cleared to travel by medics before leaving Wuhan.
A health ministry official told Reuters that medics would normally be checking for symptoms such as fever and coughing.
MORE THAN 200 ONBOARD CHARTERED FLIGHT
The plane landed at Haneda airport around 8.45am local time, with officials saying 206 people were on board.
Airport workers wearing face masks immediately began unloading luggage from the aircraft, and several buses pulled up, but there was no immediate sign of passengers leaving the plane. Ambulances could be seen nearby.
Earlier, health ministry officials said medical professionals on board the flight would carry out health checks but that there were no plans to quarantine the arriving passengers.
The flight arrives as several countries work to extract their nationals from Wuhan, with an American charter flight also due to leave the city on Wednesday, bound for an airport in the Los Angeles area.
The Japanese flight arrived in Wuhan overnight carrying emergency relief supplies including 15,000 masks, 50,000 pairs of gloves and 8,000 protective glasses, the foreign ministry said.
Around four medical officials were also on board to monitor returning passengers.
Government officials said Tuesday that evacuees would be asked to fill out a health questionnaire and that anyone displaying symptoms on the flight would be taken to hospital immediately upon arrival in Japan.
ASKED TO AVOID CROWDS
All passengers were expected to be tested for the new strain of coronavirus, which has killed more than 100 people and infected thousands.
The evacuees would be asked to remain at home and avoid crowds at least until the results of the test were known, officials said.
Those who live in and near Tokyo will be allowed to head home, while those living further away will be taken to local hotels initially.
Japan's foreign ministry says around 650 Japanese nationals in the Wuhan area have asked to be repatriated, and local media reported Wednesday that Tokyo was preparing to send a second charter flight, possibly later Wednesday, to collect more people.
Chinese authorities said Wednesday that the number of confirmed deaths in the outbreak has risen to 132 nationwide, with the confirmed total of infections now nearly 6,000.
More than 50 million people have been locked down in and around Wuhan, the central industrial city where the outbreak first began, in a bid by authorities to stop an infection that has since spread to other cities in China and to other countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the virus a "demon" during talks on Tuesday with the head of the World Health Organization in Beijing, and pledged a "timely" release of updates about the crisis.
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