S. Korea’s 2nd chartered plane arrives in Wuhan for evacuation

January 31, 2020

 A second South Korean chartered plane landed in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday night to evacuate some 350 South Koreans from the epicenter of the potentially deadly new coronavirus.

The plane is set to bring home the South Koreans from the locked-down Chinese city on Saturday morning.

“What we’ll primarily focus on doing this time is to speed up the quarantine process so that everyone can return home more safely and more quickly,” Lee Sang-jin, a foreign ministry official who is leading a quick response team for the flight, told reporters before departure in Seoul.

Lee Sang-jin, deputy foreign minister for overseas Koreans and consular affairs, heads to the departure gate at Gimpo International Airport to board an evacuation flight to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)
Authorities at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul carry out quarantine work on the first evacuation flight that brought 368 South Korean citizens home from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)

Lee Sang-jin, deputy foreign minister for overseas Koreans and consular affairs, heads to the departure gate at Gimpo International Airport to board an evacuation flight to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)

The flight is the second evacuation by South Korea amid growing health concerns around the world as the novel virus has killed at least 213 in China and infected about 10,000 people according to some estimates.

South Korea had sought to send two planes each on Thursday and Friday for the evacuation mission, but the number of flights was reduced to one for each day amid speculation that Beijing wants to avoid the image of foreigners leaving the country en masse.

The virus — which was first reported from Wuhan on Dec. 31 — has since spread to more than 20 countries, including South Korea, the United States, Japan and Canada.

This development prompted the World Health Organization to declare the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.

On Friday, South Korea brought home 368 people from Wuhan on the first chartered plane and placed them in quarantine facilities in the city of Asan and Jincheon County, both in the country’s central regions.

On Twitter, South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday expressed gratitude to residents of Asan and Jincheon for accommodating 368 evacuees from Wuhan.

Some of the residents threw eggs at officials in anger at the government’s abrupt change of location from the central city of Cheonan to Asan. The residents later relented, and some of them held a handwritten banner in support of the evacuees.

The evacuees from the second flight will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine at the two state-run institutes in Asan and Jincheon.

Eighteen passengers from the first flight have been taken to two state-designated hospitals for further examination after showing signs of illness such as coughing, diarrhea, stomachache and sore throat. The symptoms were detected after arrival in Seoul.

Common signs of infection include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization.

South Korea confirmed five more cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the total number of infections to 11. South Korea announced the first case of human-to-human transmission on Thursday and three more cases of human-to-human transmission on Friday.

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