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Coronavirus tests on two French citizens evacuated from China turn out negative

French citizens board an evacuation plane headed from Wuhan to the Istres-Le Tube Air Base near Istres, northwest of Marseille, southern France, on January 31, 2020.
French citizens board an evacuation plane headed from Wuhan to the Istres-Le Tube Air Base near Istres, northwest of Marseille, southern France, on January 31, 2020. © Hector Retamal, AFP

Tests on two French citizens evacuated by plane with 178 other passengers from the Chinese city of Wuhan and feared to have coronavirus symptoms have turned out negative, Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said Friday.

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The two were tested after landing at a military base near the southern port city of Marseille on the first plane sent by France to evacuate French nationals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The remaining passengers were taken to a seaside holiday camp at Carry-le-Rouet near Marseille, where they will be kept in quarantine for two weeks.

"Two people showed symptoms during the journey – one on the plane and the other in the bus," Buzyn told reporters.

"They were quickly taken to ... hospital and they were tested, and they are both negative," she said, adding they would now be able to join the others at the quarantine camp.

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, broke into applause 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.

Buzyn said preparations were now being finalised for a second repatriation flight by France that could leave as soon as Sunday although details were still unclear.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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