“When I heard news, I wear mask,” he said. “I have lived in Australia for 10 years, I wanted to come home to look after the kids.
“I told my wife I need to wear a mask in my home for at least 10 days. It’s what we decided together.”
Mr Ouyang said that, as passengers left Wuhan Airport, they were inspected thoroughly by Chinese officials, who checked for temperatures, coughs and asked about their time in the country.
Upon arrival in Sydney, passengers were met by public health officials and biosecurity agents.
A passenger who did not want to be named said “everything was normal” upon her arrival and she was “not really worried”.
During the flight, passengers received leaflets written in English and simplified Chinese about the new virus, advising anyone with respiratory symptoms to contact a biosecurity officer at the airport.
Lunar New Year begins on Friday and is expected to bring thousands of Chinese travellers to Australia.
International student Tom Tang was waiting for his friend and said she was lucky to leave Wuhan before the travel shutdown.
“I don’t think she’s scared because it is fine. She’s fine and the people around her is very fine too.”
Me Tang was not too worried about the virus, and said, “I think it can be controlled by the Wuhan government.”
The coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, was first detected in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, last month, before spreading to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and various Chinese provinces. It has killed at least 17 people and infected almost 600, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.
The travel ban announcement, shared on Chinese state media hours before it was to take effect, was a significant escalation from just the day before, when the authorities had urged people not to travel to or from the central Chinese city but had stopped short of shutting down transportation.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy told Channel Seven’s Sunrise: “We obviously have developed more concern over the last three or four days on the basis of the significant increase in case numbers and the fact that human-to-human transmission to some extent has been proven and the fact that there have been … deaths.
“But Australia is very well prepared,” he said. “We are a very well-prepared country. We have often prepared for new infectious diseases and all our state health authorities are very well prepared.”
In Wuhan, which is popular among tourists for its colonial architecture, spicy noodles and proximity to the Yangtze River, the authorities had already issued a ban on large public gatherings and performances at hotels and sightseeing destinations.
They had also announced that all locals were required to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of the virus.
To encourage travellers to stay away from Wuhan, tour companies promised penalty-free refunds for hotel bookings and air and train tickets to and from the city. Travel operators suspended itineraries with stops there, raising concerns of a slump during what is usually one of the most lucrative weeks of the year.
The Chinese authorities said that the measures in Wuhan were needed to “effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, and ensure the safety and health of the people”.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
With The New York Times, AAP
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Eilidh Mellis is an intern journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.