France prepares evacuation of its citizens from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China
France is planning to evacuate its citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus epidemic, the French Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
A statement on the official webpage of the French consulate in Wuhan said that France was “considering … setting up a bus service allowing French citizens, their spouses and children to leave Wuhan”.
The French Foreign ministry has set up an emergency phone line. On Saturday, an official answering the line told FRANCE 24 that the bus transport details were still being worked out, but that the plan was to take French citizens trapped in Wuhan to another Chinese city, where they would undergo a 14-day quarantine before being allowed to move on.
French automotive group PSA, maker of the Peugeot and Citroen brands, said on Sunday that it will also planning expat staff and their families from the Wuhan area. The PSA staement said that 38 people would be evacuated and that the initiative will be executed in full collaboration with the Chinese authorities and the French general consulate.
PSA said the evacuees will remain in quarantine in Changsha before traveling back to their home countries.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, has been on virtual lockdown since Thursday, with nearly all flights cancelled and checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town. Some foreigners report that they have been able to leave town after having their temperatures checked.
Among them, Sébastien Spaeth, a manager at the Wuhan French International School, told FRANCE 24 that he managed to leave on Thursday. “Despite the lockdown, it seems that foreigners can still leave … The locals have been very well briefed. They are a very disciplined people, much easier to manage than the French. Here in Sichuan (another province west of Wuhan), Chinese people are telling us that we are not reasonable, that we may be propagating the virus. We are going to undergo a medical test”, Spaeth told FRANCE 24 on Saturday.
The US is also planning to evacuate its diplomats and citizens from Wuhan. US officials are arranging a charter flight on Sunday to bring about 230 people outside the epidemic-stricken city, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing a person familiar with the operation.
The source said that other governments were currently negotiating with Chinese authorities to arrange similar evacuation.
(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)
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