New Zealand will join Australia in a plan to evacuate the nations' citizens from the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison today revealed his Government was planning for an operation to move more than 600 Australians currently trapped in the city of Wuhan to the Christmas Island detention centre for quarantine.
The region has been on strict lockdown since the outbreak of the new virus that has killed 132. There have been more than 6000 confirmed cases worldwide.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed there are now 82 New Zealanders registered as being in the region.
Ardern on Wednesday afternoon confirmed New Zealand would be working with Australia on a "joint ANZAC assisted departure" from Wuhan.
"Specific details of the evacuation plan, including the medical protocols that will be applied to returning New Zealanders, and access arrangements on the ground in China are being worked through by officials," she said.
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Morrison also indicated the operation was still only in its planning stages.
But Ardern has warned any plan to remove New Zealanders would be complex and difficult because of logistical issues, including tight travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government, pre-departure screening requirements and complying with any quarantine measures.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters told Newstalk ZB's Heather du Plessis-Allan they don't know how many New Zealanders in Wuhan are wanting to leave.
"We think we're dealing with, at this point of time, well under 80." he said.
"The details, of course, have gotta be worked through with the Chinese government. Including the reception of evacuation transport." He said.
"You can't use military aircraft because the Chinese government won't accept that. Other contingency plans are being put in place as we speak."
When asked whether it'll be Australian or New Zealand aircraft, he said it could be both.
Peters says he can't give any details about how these people will be quarantined, but said "we've already worked on that".
New Zealand today joined Australia and Britain in warning citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China, in addition to an earlier blanket warning against visiting Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
Peters said he was also consulting with the United States about joining its evacuation effort.
He was due to speak to US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on Wednesday.
Kiwi citizens trapped in Wuhan have been pleading to get out after being caught in the lockdown while visiting during the Chinese New Year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier said it was exploring various evacuation options with other countries.
"Options include the possibility of places being made available for New Zealanders on charter flights leaving Wuhan, or assisted departure by NZDF which is more complex," a spokesperson said.
But it warned New Zealanders in China they "must comply with all Chinese laws, rules and regulations including the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities to contain the virus".