French citizen evacuated from China hospitalised with coronavirus symptoms

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Istres (France) (AFP)

A French citizen evacuated by plane with 179 others from the Chinese city of Wuhan has been hospitalised with coronavirus symptoms, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Friday.

On landing at a military base near the southern port city of Marseille, "the person was directly transferred to Timone hospital and will obviously be tested," said the minister, who met the passengers on arrival.

The plane was the first sent by France to evacuate French nationals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The remaining passengers were taken to a seaside holiday camp, where they will be kept in quarantine for two weeks.

Announcing the flight on Wednesday, Buzyn had said that it would be reserved for people "who show no symptoms" of the virus that has killed 213 people and infected nearly 10,000 in mainland China, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency.

She had said that "if people have symptoms or are sick... they will be repatriated on specific medical flights."

Three AFP journalists were onboard the 12-hour flight, which landed shortly after noon.

The evacuees were given surgical face masks to wear throughout the flight, which they changed regularly after disinfecting their hands.

The passengers, who were accompanied by a medical team, had applauded as they touched down in France.

On Thursday, the authorities confirmed a sixth case of the new coronavirus in France, a doctor who was infected by a person who had travelled from China.

The person later returned to China and was confirmed to be sick with the virus.