Travel Trouble

Australians stranded in Wuhan told no more evacuation flights planned

Australians stranded in Wuhan told no more evacuation flights planned

Dozens of Australians remain stranded in Wuhan as the Federal Government confirmed there were no more evacuation flights planned.

More than 500 Australians have been airlifted out of the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus emerged, with the first cohort under quarantine on Christmas Island and the second near Darwin.  

In January the Government said there were about 600 Australians in the city who had registered their details, and it was prioritising “isolated and vulnerable” people including infants and the elderly for assisted departures.

But many of those left behind said they were not notified of departing flights, the ABC reported.

According to the outlet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told families in an email there were “no plans currently for any more Australian Government assisted departure flights”.

The email read: “As the Prime Minister has said, Australians should not rely on further assisted departure from Wuhan or mainland China.

“We encourage you to continue to follow the advice of local authorities in China, and monitor the Smartraveller website.”

Australian Shirley Xiang said she and her family did not get a chance to board the initial flight despite having alerted the Government to their presence.

“We don’t mind being quarantined in the difficult environment on Christmas Island, but we didn’t get a chance for the next flight at all,” Xiang told the ABC.

“Now they told us there won’t be a third flight for evacuation. It is very unfair that the Government decided to not evacuate my children.”

Desmond Lim said he felt like he and his wife were “being penalised for doing the right thing” by supporting the Government to fly out vulnerable citizens and permanent residents first.

“We are appreciative and supportive of the fact that the government is flying the most vulnerable people out first. We want to do the right thing,” Lim told the Guardian.

“We were honest. We said [my wife] is safe, she is healthy at the moment. My wife’s there with her mum and dad. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want any assistance.

“I feel we are being penalised for doing the right thing. You do the right thing, you follow the process and at the end of it, they say, ‘Nah, we’re not going to help’.”

Lim said the DFAT email “lacks empathy” for Australians in the locked-down city. “It feels a bit like they are trying to sweep the rest of us under the carpet and make the situation go away. It’s not the right thing to do,” he said.

The US government has evacuated more than 800 citizens and residents from Wuhan. New Zealand has evacuated 98 New Zealanders as well as 35 people from Australia, 17 from Timor Leste, 17 from Papua New Guinea, and more from nine other countries.

The Singaporean government has flown out 266 people in two flights, and Japan has evacuated more than 700 people.