Evacuation of Portuguese from China’s coronavirus epicentre ‘delayed’ as ‘world health emergency’ is declared


The long-anticipated arrival of 17 Portuguese citizens requesting evacuation from the Chinese coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan today has been delayed

Early this morning, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos told RTP’s Antena 1 radio station that the plane that should have left Paris for Wuhan yesterday (Thursday) is still on the ground.

The problem, he explains, is that China has not yet authorised passage for the group which includes Portuguese nationals.

“This is a complex operation”, he said – adding that for now Portuguese desperate to leave China are being told to stay at home, with the possibility that the flight will take place on Saturday night.

In the wider context, the World Health Organisation has declared China’s outbreak of coronavirus a ‘world health emergency’ as the number of deaths is reported to have reached 213.

As of mid-morning, contagion has spread to 20 countries, with the first cases having been flagged now in UK.

Says Público, the first flight of Europeans out of Wuhan finally got the go-ahead it needed after some delays, and Britons, Norwegians, Spaniards and Danes are now ‘on their way home’, albeit faced with up to 14 days in quarantine once they land in their respective destinations.

Information coming out of China today states that almost 10,000 people have now been registered as infected with the virus, symptoms of which are similar to those of bad flu attacking particularly the respiratory system.

The large majority of cases remains in the Chinese province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan.

Overseas territories flagging victims as of today are Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Nepal, Malaysia, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, the Philippines and India.

Here, the substantial Chinese community is reported as wanting to “avoid alarmism” that might prejudice business in shops and restaurants owned by Chinese nationals.

Talking to Expresso, Y Ping Chow – president of the League of Chinese in Portugal – stressed a plan is on the way to ‘minimise the effects’ of this galloping virus.

“We would like to explain with great force to the Portuguese community that the Chinese community – restaurants and shops – is aware and advised”, he said. “There is no risk of contagion in these places, just as there is no risk in equivalent Portuguese places”.

Y Ping Chow said his league is already advising any incoming Chinese to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Meantime, plans are afoot to meet with local and national authorities next week in a bid to pass on the message of ‘calm’ vis-a-vis community relations with the Portuguese public.

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