Several people failed to board a New Zealand-led evacuation from China yesterday.

Nearly 200 people, mostly New Zealanders, were flown to Auckland airport at about 6pm last night from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus.

All 193 people have arrived safely, the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.


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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said one passenger was stopped from boarding after failing a health check but that "no registrants were unable to board due to documentation and check-in processes".

MFAT said around 60 people registered for the flight did not arrive at the airport and gave no notice. It has been approached for further comment.

St John said the people they did screen managed to all get onboard the flight.

Speaking to reporters at Auckland Airport last night, St John medical director Tony Smith, who was on the flight from Wuhan, said passengers were very stressed out and suffered headaches. Several children were vomiting.

None of the passengers showed any symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

Ground staff at Auckland Airport check evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Daniel Ou Yang
Ground staff at Auckland Airport check evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Daniel Ou Yang

At the airport in Wuhan, several people initially failed temperature screenings because they were wearing six to seven layers of clothing - a measure to counter China's bitter winter - and had rushed to make the flight, Smith said.

"So we put those people aside, we got the layers off, we waited half an hour, we re-measured the temperatures, and they had all come back down and they were all asymptomatic. And those people were very worried that they might not get on the plane."


The last passenger to board the flight was a British four-year-old who staff held up the departure for, British diplomat Danae Dholakia said on Twitter.

'It was nerve-wracking'

An exhausted Kiwi passenger on an evacuation flight from coronavirus-hit China was elated after touching down in Auckland last night, describing it as a "wonderful feeling".

But an Australian passenger said it had been nerve-wracking being in such close proximity to other international travellers, many of whom used hand sanitiser on the flight to protect themselves from the virus.

Nearly 200 evacuees on the Government-chartered emergency Air New Zealand flight have begun two weeks of quarantine after escaping from Wuhan, the epicentre of the global outbreak.

After 11-and-a-half hours in the air, the evacuation flight landed at Auckland International Airport just before 6.15pm.

The 190 evacuees were processed by border officials and underwent medical screening. About 160 of them were loaded onto seven Pacific Tourways buses with blacked-out windows to protect their identities.


They were then whisked to a defence-owned quarantine base in Whangaparāoa and into the care of Ministry of Health staff.

The rest were Australians who boarded another plane before being flown to a quarantine centre on Christmas Island.

Locals welcome evacuees from Wuhan to the Tamaki Leadership Centre on Whangaparaoa after their flight back from Wuhan. Photo / Chris Tarpey
Locals welcome evacuees from Wuhan to the Tamaki Leadership Centre on Whangaparaoa after their flight back from Wuhan. Photo / Chris Tarpey

Kiwi Aaron Mahon was onboard the Air New Zealand charter plane after being trapped in Wuhan with his family during the outbreak.

He said the evacuees were rapt to be home.

"Everyone clapped when we landed, such a wonderful feeling," Mahon told 1 NEWS.

"The staff are amazing, so personal and so helpful. Every person was so safe on the flight."


Even the in-flight food was also good, Mahon said.

Fellow passenger Australian Daniel Ou Yang, 21, posted on social media last night about the stress of the evacuation.

"Everyone's wearing masks, and it was nerve-racking being around so many people in such close proximity."

Buses leave Auckland Airport with evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Dean Purcell
Buses leave Auckland Airport with evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Dean Purcell

Passengers were given masks and hand sanitisers, along with normal flight care packages and encouraged not to leave their seats, Yang said.

"Everyone is just trying to avoid contact with each other as much as possible and constantly using hand sanitisers."

After landing in Auckland, Yang prepared to board another long flight to Christmas Island.

A bus leaves Auckland Airport with evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Dean Purcell
A bus leaves Auckland Airport with evacuees from Wuhan. Photo / Dean Purcell

"I'm nervous about being there. I heard from others there's barely any Wi-Fi and no reception. There is nothing to do. Hopefully the facility is clean, and I can be out of there smoothly."

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media scrum outside the airport no one had become unwell on the charter flight.

"None of them are symptomatic." He said the evacuees were exhausted but relieved to be on safe ground. They would be under daily medical supervision at the military base.

"I'm just thrilled this flight has got here. Everyone is safe and well."

Air New Zealand staff on the flight would not need to be isolated, but consular officials who had travelled with the evacuees who may have been exposed to the virus would be quarantined.

Those in isolation would not be able to be visited, but would have access to their phones to contact loved ones.


There were no plans for a second evacuation flight to bring other stranded Kiwis home.

Bloomfield confirmed there were no cases of the virus in New Zealand so far. Three tests that were sent out came back negative yesterday.

Among those watching the anticipated landing was anxious dad Harry Li.

His 6-year-old son was among the passengers aboard Air New Zealand flight 1942 and he will join them for their mandatory 14 days in isolation at Whangaparāoa Military Training base.

"I just want to see my child as soon as possible. I'll stay in quarantine with him for 14 days — he must be a bit fearful on his own," "Li told RNZ.

"He is still young. I'm preparing all sorts of things these days for the quarantine — things to eat, clothes to wear and what I should do with him during these 14 days."


Air New Zealand flight 1942 departed Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at 1.46am (6.46am New Zealand time) — nearly three hours late.

Locals welcome evacuees from Wuhan to the Tamaki Leadership Centre on Whangaparaoa. Photo / Chris Tarpey
Locals welcome evacuees from Wuhan to the Tamaki Leadership Centre on Whangaparaoa. Photo / Chris Tarpey

The city was closed off by Chinese authorities two weeks ago in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

The Boeing 777-200 flight could accommodate 312 passengers, Air New Zealand said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, authorities said 263 people were registered for the flight. It's not clear why the other registered people did not board, but Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials confirmed one person was barred from the flight by Chinese officials due to illness.

A St John doctor and two paramedics had assessed passengers to decide if they were healthy enough to travel out of Wuhan. Anyone suspected of having the virus was not allowed on the flight.

The respiratory virus has now claimed 427 lives and infected more than 20,000 people globally.


Ninety-eight of the evacuation flight's passengers were New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, 23 were Australian citizens and 69 other foreign nationals, predominantly from Pacific Island countries including Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia.

All passengers, apart from the Australian evacuees, will be quarantined in Whangaparāoa.

An operations plan seen by the Herald said heavy duty N95/P3 masks were available to be worn by passengers aboard the flight.

The masks could be removed when in non-passenger areas.

There was no Wi-Fi aboard the flight and mobile phone use was forbidden until passengers had cleared New Zealand border agencies.

Plans for the rescue flight stated no alcohol was to be served, instead additional soda, juice and water was to be offered to passengers.


All evacuees were to be confined to the Economy area, while Business Premier was dedicated to operational, Air NZ support staff, Mfat and Ministry of Health personnel.

Dedicated toilets for crew and support staff had been locked off.

There were also plans to have an isolation area should passengers develop symptoms in-flight, with five rows requested for this.

The plan said there would be "significant" additional personal protection items.

The volunteer cabin crew had to wear surgical masks and gloves had to be used during all interactions with passengers.

Meanwhile, images released yesterday show the reception area of the Whangaparāoa military base where the evacuees will be held.


The base was chosen due to its size, location and access to medical facilities, a Ministry of Health spokesman said.

"We will ensure people receive daily medical checks while in isolation..

"We also want to ensure while people are in isolation, they can continue to maintain as normal a life as possible, despite the circumstances. That might mean people working remotely, meeting education needs for children and providing for leisure activities." Food for those in quarantine would be provided by commercial contractors, with generators, increased broadband and cellular capability to be installed.

Outdoor furniture and a play area for children among would be provided, the spokesman said.

"The Ministry is also preparing to provide returnees with an information pack. This will provide information about the facility, dietary requirements, the 14-day isolation plan and security at the facility, among other things." A no-fly zone was in place above the military base and people who wanted to drop parcels off to those in quarantine would be asked to do so at the local police station in Orewa, he said.