Japan to evacuate citizens from virus-hit Wuhan

27, Jan. 2020

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TOKYO, Kyodo - Japan will help all its citizens wishing to travel back to the country from the central Chinese city of Wuhan amid a deadly outbreak of coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday.

Abe told reporters that the government will arrange a charter flight or other means to bring them back from the city, where the new virus was first identified. It has killed at least 56 people in China and infected more than 2,000 globally.

"As soon as adjustments with the Chinese government get done, I will pursue all means, including a charter plane, and realize the return of all applicants," Abe said at his official residence.

As of Friday, there were about 710 Japanese citizens in Wuhan, a city of 11 million that has been on virtual lockdown, according to the Japanese government.

The government conducted a survey over the weekend on how many Japanese wish to return, and has so far been able to reach about 430 citizens, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.

Motegi said he spoke on the phone with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and asked for cooperation on the evacuation.

The announcement came as other countries, including the United States and South Korea, have been negotiating with Chinese authorities to evacuate their citizens from the capital of Hubei Province.

The Japanese government intends to enable all Japanese nationals wishing to return home to do so not only from Wuhan but from the entire Hubei Province, according to a source at the Japanese Embassy in China.

On Sunday, Japan's health ministry said a fourth case of the virus has been confirmed in the country.

The patient is a man in his 40s who arrived in Japan on Wednesday as a tourist from Wuhan, the ministry said, adding he is in a stable condition.

The man is said to have had no symptoms at the time of arrival, but developed a fever on Thursday and went to see a doctor the following day in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, according to the ministry.

The man was hospitalized in the prefecture and later tested positive for the virus, it said, adding he is said to have worn a mask while traveling.

Meanwhile, Motegi said it was not yet clear whether a Japanese national hospitalized in Wuhan with severe pneumonia had been infected with the virus. (Kyodo)