Coronavirus: Australia and New Zealand to work together amid calls to repatriate citizens

The virus has spread to more than 14 countries.
The virus has spread to more than 14 countries. Photo credit: Getty

Scott Morrison has spoken with Jacinda Ardern about getting New Zealanders and Australians out of Wuhan.

The Chinese city is ground-zero for the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 100 people and infected more than 4500.

Fifty-three Kiwis are registered as living in the city, with around 20 of those requesting consular help.

The city has been placed in lockdown by the Chinese government in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

The Australian Prime Minister on Tuesday said he had spoken to Ardern about the prospect of Australia and New Zealand cooperating to repatriate their citizens, the Australian reported. 

"I have just spoken just a few minutes ago to Prime Minister Ardern, and seeking to work closely with the New Zealand Government in supporting both their and our nationals who have been caught up in this event," Morrison said.

"Right now, the Australian Government, through our embassy, is looking to deploy, working with the Chinese Government, consular officials into Hubei Province, into Wuhan."

The country's health minister said 400 people have registered with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) requesting to be evacuated from China.

An Auckland woman whose daughter is stuck in the city told RNZ the Government should be doing more to help its citizens.

She said remaining in the virus-affected area would take its toll in her daughter's mental health.

The New Zealand Government says evacuation options are being "actively explored".

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said on Tuesday it was considering flying Kiwis out on chartered flights or with the Defence Force.

But Ardern, speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference, said it would be "very difficult to get foreign nationals out of the province even if they are healthy".

She said that MFAT wasn't aware of any New Zealanders in Wuhan who were showing flu-like symptoms. 

She said no decision had been taken to deploy charter flights or military assets to evacuate Kiwis. She also said that MFAT wasn't aware of any New Zealanders in Wuhan who were showing flu-like symptoms.

New Zealand and Australia aren't the only countries considering evacuating their citizens. 

France, Japan and the US had made efforts to get their citizens out, with the French Health Minister telling reporters earlier this week that French citizens would be evacuated directly back to France.

The US and Japan also confirmed plans to evacuate citizens, with the Chinese government offering "necessary assistance" to help those missions.

But Ardern said it was harder for New Zealand to organise such evacuations as it had no workers on the ground in the region.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges said it's time to "bring home" New Zealanders in Wuhan, and that a "responsible Government would be looking after its people".

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