TOKYO: Japan will send a plane to the Chinese city of Wuhan later Tuesday to begin evacuating citizens from the centre of a deadly virus outbreak, the country's foreign minister said.
"We have finalised arrangements, and the Chinese side has communicated to us that it is now ready to accept one chartered flight. Arrangements have been made to secure transportation to the airport," Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.
"We will dispatch the first flight for Wuhan airport this evening, and we will also bring with it aid supplies such as masks and protective suits for Chinese people as well as for Japanese nationals," he said.
He added that around 200 people were likely to be on board, out of 650 Japanese nationals in the area who had expressed an interest in being repatriated.
"We will continue to coordinate efforts with the Chinese government and other relevant agencies, including securing transportation on the ground, so that all Japanese nationals wishing to return home will be able to return home as soon as possible," he added.
The flight is expected to arrive in Japan early on Wednesday, with health officials on board monitoring the condition of passengers but no apparent plans so far to quarantine those arriving from Wuhan.
"We will send around four people per plane -- a medical doctor, a quarantine officer, a nurse and so on.
We will carry out a quarantine on board on their way back," a health ministry official told AFP.
She said passengers will be required to fill out medical questionnaires and submit contact numbers.
A second official from the ministry added that passengers with a high fever could be prevented from boarding, and that anyone developing symptoms during the flight would be sent to hospital immediately on arrival in Japan.
"We will also call on all passengers to refrain from going near crowds for a while even if they don't have a fever," he told AFP.