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Chinese tourists stranded in Bali over virus fears offered flights home

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Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP)

Thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in Bali after Indonesia suspended flights over coronavirus fears will be offered charter flights home, China's consulate on the holiday island said Thursday.

A diplomatic notice said Beijing was arranging flights for Friday back to Wuhan -- the epicentre of the deadly outbreak which has killed over 500 people and spread around the world.

Many of the marooned tourists are from the stricken city and surrounding Hubei province, the consulate said, but it added their return would be voluntary.

"Passengers' temperatures will be measured before boarding," the notice said.

"Those with novel coronavirus symptoms will not be allowed to board the plane."

It was not immediately clear how many holidaymakers would take up the offer or who would pay for their tickets.

"The Chinese consulate general has offered repatriation to the mainland, but no one has agreed to fly back home," Bali's vice-governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, told Indonesia's MetroTV.

The consulate did not respond to requests for further comment on Thursday.

A day earlier it said at least 5,000 Chinese tourists were in Bali, the centrepiece of Indonesia's tourism industry.

- Refused entry -

The Southeast Asian archipelago country attracts about 2.1 million Chinese visitors annually but the number has fallen from about 6,000 arrivals per day to just 1,000 since the outbreak began in mid-December.

Also Thursday, Bali officials said they had refused entry to 17 foreign tourists who had recently been in China, including visitors from Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, Morocco and Britain.

Indonesia has yet to report a confirmed case of the virus, which emerged in a Chinese market at the end of last year.

Tourism minister Wishnutama Kusubandio warned his country stood to lose up to $4 billion this year if travel from China and elsewhere is disrupted.

Jakarta is also expected to unveil details on Thursday of a plan to temporarily ban some livestock imports from China due to the coronavirus.

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