France to repatriate citizens from Wuhan as virus spreads

PARIS (AP) — France’s government announced on Sunday it will repatriate up to hundreds of French citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly new virus.

Those French citizens who want to leave Wuhan will be taken on a direct flight to France in the middle of the week, and then held in quarantine for 14 days, the French health minister announced, after a special government meeting to discuss the spreading virus.

France is joining other countries planning evacuations from Wuhan, which is under lockdown by the Chinese government in an attempt to halt the spread of the pneumonia-like virus that has killed more than 50 people and infected nearly 2,000 people in China.

The United States (US) Consulate in Wuhan announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight today.

French hospitals are treating three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus — the first infections reported in Europe — and more are likely, officials said. The confirmed cases are all Chinese citizens who recently returned from travels there.

“The prime minister asked for the organisation of a repatriation via direct flight, in agreement with the Chinese authorities,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said. A special medical team will accompany the flight.

French automaker PSA, which produces Peugeot and Citroen cars, said on Saturday it was evacuating its expatriate employees and their families from Wuhan and quarantining them in another city. It didn’t elaborate.

French medical teams on Sunday began meeting passengers arriving on flights from China at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and other airports.