South Korea is considering sending a chartered flight to the Chinese city of Wuhan to bring its citizens home from the epicenter of the outbreak of a deadly new coronavirus, government sources said Monday.
Officials from the foreign ministry, the interior ministry, the health ministry and the transport ministry held a meeting to discuss safety measures for South Koreans remaining in Wuhan, estimated at around 600, including mobilizing a chartered flight to bring them home, the sources said.
"We are aware of the urgency of the situation, and we are also consulting with China on the issue," an official said. "There are many things to prepare as a package, such as strengthening the local quarantine system in case South Koreans arrive from there."
The government is pushing to send the flight as early as Thursday, though the schedule will be fixed later following consultations with China, according to the Korean consulate general in the Chinese city.
All trains and flights from Wuhan have been suspended, and all roads out of the city have also been blocked since last week.
So far, more than 500 South Koreans in Wuhan have expressed their desire to come home, and no confirmed or suspected cases among the Koreans there have been reported.
Those with Chinese citizenship will not be allowed to take the flight even if they are family members of South Korean nationals, and those who show suspected symptoms of the virus cannot board it, according to the consular office.
Taking the incubation period into consideration, the entrants are expected to be quarantined for about 14 days at designated facilities, the office said, adding that those who use the charter plane to evacuate would cover the cost of the flight.
"We will make and announce a final decision on the issue after holding a meeting of ministers concerned tomorrow afternoon," another government official said, adding that the government has been looking into related details, such as exactly when to send possible flights and how to quarantine the entrants.
Other countries like the United States are also planning to arrange charter flights.
The U.S. plans to use chartered flights to evacuate about 1,000 American citizens, including personnel at its consulate, while Japan is expected to arrange a charter flight as early as Tuesday, Kyodo News cited a government official as saying on Monday. (Yonhap)