Japanese evacuation flight brings back workers from Wuhan

TOKYO (AP) — The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city arrived in Tokyo yesterday, wearing masks but showing a sense of relief.

Five of the 206 evacuees had cough and fever and were taken to a designated Tokyo hospital specialising in treating infectious diseases, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session, adding that they were still checking if any passengers were ill with the virus. Japan’s government sent a chartered flight to pick up the evacuees, most of whom resided close to the Wuhan seafood market linked to the first cases of the new virus that has infected thousands.

“We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly when we were still in the city,” an employee at Nippon Steel Corp’s subsidiary in Wuhan Takeo Aoyama told reporters at Tokyo’s Haneda airport while he waited for a bus to take him to a hospital for another health check.

“My uneasiness peaked when the number of patients started to spike,” he said, wearing a mask that muffled his voice. “I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on my seat (on the plane),” he said. Other evacuees seated near him also seemed relieved but tired.

Japan has seven cases including what could be the first human-to-human infection in the country, a man in his 60s who worked as a tour bus driver and served two groups of Chinese tourists from Wuhan on January 8-16.

People wearing face masks walk on a street in Nara, western Japan. PHOTO: AP