The chartered flights carrying U.S. citizens from Wuhan, China, this week are likely to be the last.
Two flights out of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, landed on Wednesday morning in California, bringing the number of such flights arriving in the United States since Jan. 29 to three.
Another “one or more” are expected to depart Wuhan on Thursday, a State Department official said Tuesday.
The department does not anticipate chartering any flights beyond those, the official said.
“The Department of State has no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” the official said. “U.S. citizens currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means.”
2 Flights Landed Wednesday
Two flights—carrying a total of about 350 passengers, according to the Department of Defense—landed Wednesday morning at Travis Air Force Base, located between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Passengers from one of the planes will stay at Travis, where they will be under a mandatory 14-day quarantine managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The other plane will refuel at Travis before taking its passengers to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. Those passengers, like the ones staying at Travis, also will be kept under quarantine for 14 days, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col Chris Mitchell said.
These flights come about a week after the first U.S. government-arranged flight left Wuhan. That first chartered plane, carrying nearly 200 U.S. citizens—including diplomats and their families—arrived Jan. 29 at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California, where they also are under a 14-day quarantine.
About 1,000 Americans live in Wuhan, and priority on chartered flights was given to U.S. citizens who are “most at risk for contracting coronavirus” if they stay in the city, the State Department has said.
Father Waits to Reunite With Wife and Children
San Diego resident Ken Burnett said his wife and two young children are believed to have been on one of the flights that landed in California on Wednesday.
The three were holed up in a high-rise apartment for about two weeks in Wuhan, which was virtually shut down because of the outbreak. Burnett, waiting for them in the United States, said the family struggled for information and assistance from officials to get seats on the plane.
“We feel frustrated with that process,” Burnett told CNN. “But in the end, we just want our family safe, however that has to be done.”
“Until I know they are here, that’s when I really will celebrate.”
There have been more than 24,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide—the vast majority in China—with a death toll of at least 492.
Everyone aboard the chartered flights were screened for symptoms before they departed and will subjected to CDC screenings and requirements for monitoring, the State Department official said.
U.S. citizens returning from China on commercial flights are being rerouted to airports that can handle extra health screenings, and passengers may be subject to quarantine, according to new federal rules that went into effect Sunday.
Beijing has criticized the United States’ response to the coronavirus outbreak, including temporarily denying foreign nationals entry to the United States if they had been in China in the previous 14 days.
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Author: Wire Service