Australians leaving coronavirus epicentre Wuhan to go to Christmas Island


Hundreds of Australians left China this week, flown out of the locked-down epicentre of the coronavirus in Wuhan by chartered flights.

Australian Daniel Ou Yang, 21, from Roseville in Sydney’s Upper North Shore, was one of those to take up the government’s offer to spend the next two weeks on Christmas Island in quarantine.

Mr Ou Yang is one of the 35 Australian evacuees who left Wuhan to be transferred via Air New Zealand flight to Auckland and then to the tiny island off the northwest coast of Western Australia.

The 21-year-old, who works as a real estate agent in Sydney, had been in Wuhan celebrating Chinese New Year with his extended family when the virus spread.

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Despite having reservations about spending two weeks in what was once a detention camp, Mr Ou Yang said he needed to leave China.

“I’ve definitely had my concerns and my thoughts holding me back from being on this flight,” he told Nine.

“But, in the end I just said, ‘you know, I had to do it, I had to get on this flight, get home to my life my family over there as well.’

“(Christmas Island) is actually not a bad facility. They separate you family by family.

“So for me, if it’s just myself, I suppose have my own room for 14 days, have a bed, have aircon.”

Filming from the time he left his grandparents house in Wuhan to his time on the plane, Mr Ou Yang showed the stringent safety and health precautions taken by the airline.

Mr Ou Yang spent more than eight hours waiting in Wuhan Airport for the Air New Zealand flight, with his boarding pass showing no departure time.

Hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders took up the offer to leave China with the flight stopping in Auckland to offload the Kiwis. Nationals from islands across the Pacific were also on board.

Mr Ou Yang will be released to his mum who is awaiting his return in Australia after spending 14 days on Christmas Island and testing negative to the virus.

In footage obtained by ABC’s 7.30, Mr Ou Yang said he was “so happy to be able to leave” China after he finally managed to board the Air New Zealand flight.

“We’ve got another package here with face masks and also with some alcohol and sanitisers,” he said, showing the plastic bag on each plane seat.

As hundreds more are evacuated from Wuhan, the government now fears overcrowding at Christmas Island.

There is discussion now about quarantining people in remote mining camps.

“Ever since this virus has occurred, a lot of people have used this as bullets to fuel their racist agendas against the Chinese community and the whole Asian community,” Mr Ou Yang said.

“It’s quite shameful that this has happened. Should Australians be scared of us after quarantine? Why should they?”

The impact of the quarantine has also hit the island hard, with Christmas Island shire president noting the devastating effect the quarantine is having on its burgeoning tourism industry.

Two hundred and forty one Australian citizens and permanent residents were already on the island after arriving from Wuhan by Qantas jet a day earlier.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus infection among the evacuees and authorities say there is no risk of residents being exposed.

But Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson fears tourists will be deterred from visiting the island, which had started to attract more holiday-makers after the majority of detainees were transferred to mainland facilities.

“I’ve noticed some idiotic comments from some people in the tourism industry on Christmas Island who seem to think it’s a good idea and that people in quarantine are going to think it’s a wonderful place and want to come back as tourists,” Mr Thomson told AAP.

“The world is looking at Christmas Island where people are incarcerated for potentially having a communicable disease.

“It’s an extraordinary event and a hysterical response.

“It’s obviously ruinous to the tourism industry. People are cancelling bookings, I know that, and raising their eyebrows when (residents) say they’re going back to Christmas Island.” Christmas Island Tourism development manager Philip Tubb said Mr Thomson’s comments were unhelpful.

“No one in this organisation is of the opinion that what is going on is a great thing for tourism; in fact, it’s quite the opposite,” he said.

“We’re in a sense, like many people, victims of a pretty awful situation in terms of reputational damage.

“But by the same token, this is a worldwide issue and people are dying. I think it needs to be kept in context as well.”


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