Air New Zealand’s new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, painted black in homage to the All Blacks rugby team, arrives in Auckland. PHOTO: AIR NEW ZEALAND

Four Tongans were among 198 passengers including five pilots, 11 cabin crew, and medical engineering staff on an emergency charter flight touched down in Auckland just after 6pm on Thursday.

They  were evacuated from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak and were “relieved to be in New Zealand”, a government official says.

Flight NZ1942 departed Wuhan, China, at 6.45am on Wednesday, and landed at Auckland International Airport around 6.12pm.

There were 54 New Zealand citizens on board, and 44 New Zealand permanent residents on Chinese passports.

Also on board were 35 Australian passengers – 23 citizens and 12 residents on Chinese passports.

Upon arrival, all passengers will be quarantined at a Whangaparāoa military base, while the Australian passengers will be transferred to a flight to their homeland.

One person was stopped from boarding the flight after being screened because they were unwell.

A number of foreign nationals were also on the flight, predominantly from the Pacific.

Passengers included those from Papua New Guinea (17 passengers), Timor Leste (17), Samoa (5), Tonga (4), Fiji (2), Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Uzbekistan and the Netherlands (one from each). Eight British nationals were also on board.

Meanwhile, the Tongan government has imposed a range of travel restrictions and medical requirements .

The Ministry of Health said this week all travelers entering the kingdom must complete and submit a Health Declaration Card.

All travelers originating or having transited through China must spend 14 days in self-quarantine at the last port that is free of the coronavirus and obtain a medical clearance within three days of their departure to Tonga.

Exemptions will be made for Tongan citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members.

Air crews on direct flights from mainland China who have been using personal protective equipment will also be exempt.

All international travellers will have to provide a medical clearance, as set out above, prior to being granted entry to Tonga.

If they do not, they will be refused entry or sent back to their country of origin.

All international travelers, including Tongan citizens, permanent residents and their families, who have been in China for 14 days before their arrival must report to the Ministry of Health’s Public Health Communicable Disease and Environmental Health Units on arrival.

Shipping operators and airlines are required to report the presence of any sick passengers.

The Tongan government has recommended that all travel to China be postponed unless necessary.

The Samoan government said 10 of its students would remain in Wuhan under the care of their universities, alongside more than 70 other Pacific students.

The Samoa Observer reported a student in Wuhan saying it seemed safer to “ride out” the virus than to leave the city.

Two people are in isolation in Fiji with what have been described as mild symptoms of the coronavirus.


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