Future of flights from China up in the air
AUSTRALIA "will not hesitate" to close its doors to more incoming flights from China if needed, while Beijing has yet to grant permission for Australians in Wuhan to go home.
Emergency medical teams touched down on Christmas Island yesterday, where any Australians evacuated from Wuhan will be quarantined for two weeks, to prepare for their arrival.
There are more than 600 Australian citizens trapped in the Chinese city, which was locked down last week in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.
But Beijing is yet to approve any evacuation effort, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne continuing negotiations last night with her counterpart.
"We covered numerous issues. I advised him of our request to assist in the departure of Australians from Wuhan," she said.
There evacuation of foreigners from Wuhan remains a sensitive subject for China, while its own citizens remain locked down.
Australian Medical Assistance Teams have prepared a quarantine area at the former immigration detention centre on Christmas Island.
The location includes a gym and well-stocked medical facilities.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the Government was closely following advice of the nation's top medicos.
"There will be a heavy medical presence, we've put in place planning for every contingency, including if someone needs to be medically evacuated to a hospital in Australia, in Darwin for example," he said.
Mr Dutton also said Australia would be prepared to take action to stop flights into Australia from more cities with outbreaks if needed.
China stopped the three flights a week from Wuhan to Sydney last week, while many airlines, including British Airways, Air France and Cathay Pacific, have begun stopping or restricting flights to parts of mainland China.
With 13 flights a week from China arriving in Brisbane, dozens have landed since the outbreak began in late December.
But none of those flights came from Wuhan, which is were most cases were recorded in the early days.
Mr Dutton said flights would be stopped if required, but the current medical and security advice did not call for it.
"If we need to make decisions about other cities, or if we need to extend what we've done then we will not hesitate to do that if we think the threat is significant enough to the Australian public," Mr Dutton said.
Qantas has not cancelled flights to mainland China at this stage, but is understood to be monitoring the situation.
The New Zealand government is also working on chartering a plane to get its citizens home from Wuhan.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Air New Zealand plane would take up to 300 passengers.
He said yesterday the flight was still subject to approval from China, but added that any spare seats would be offered to Australian or Pacific island citizens.