An eight-year-old boy has become the 13th confirmed case of coronavirus in Australia, as the government prepares to evacuate more Australian nationals from the global centre of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan.
The boy, the youngest infected in Australia so far, is a Chinese citizen and from Wuhan. He was travelling in a group with a 44-year-old man and a 42-year-old woman who have been confirmed as Queensland’s other cases of coronavirus.
The child remains in isolation at the Gold Coast University hospital in a stable condition.
Several hundred Australian citizens and permanent residents remain trapped inside Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, which is subject to a military-enforced lockdown.
More than 50 Australians have boarded a Boeing 777 chartered by the New Zealand government to bring New Zealand, Australia and Pacific Island citizens home. That flight will land in Auckland, from where the Australians are expected to be flown back west to Christmas Island to begin two weeks of quarantine.
New Zealand’s director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said 263 people, the majority of them New Zealanders, had registered for the flight, but the final manifests on these evacuation flights have typically seen lower numbers because people find it difficult to get to the airport across the locked-down city and province, or because they don’t pass Chinese screening processes or health checks.
Seventeen countries have now run rescue missions out of Wuhan.
The Australian government is also negotiating a second Australian evacuation flight, which could bring 200 more citizens and permanent residents out of the lockdown zone.
Australian government officials are confident approval can be won, but discussions are ongoing with Chinese authorities about when a flight might be permitted to land and take off.
Globally, the 2019-nCov novel coronavirus has infected more than 20,000 people and killed 427. All but two of those deaths occurring in mainland China.
It has now surpassed the death toll in China of the 2002-03 Sars outbreak, which ran for more than nine months.
There are 241 Australians who have already been moved into quarantine in the barely used immigration detention centre at the isolated north-west end of Christmas Island.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, said all evacuees to Australia have been examined, and there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the cohort.
“Fourteen were looked at more closely to ensure that they were in an acceptable condition, and they have now all been cleared of the virus. A further two are being tested as a precaution.
“The advice from the Australian Medical Assistance Team (Ausmat) on the ground is that, however, they regard the likelihood or the probability of coronavirus in that case as being minimal. But nevertheless, they are being tested.”
A pregnant woman and her partner who were on the evacuation flight out of Wuhan have been moved into isolation in Perth. Christmas Island does not have a maternity ward: women on the island are routinely flown to the mainland to give birth.
Some of those quarantined in the immigration detention have complained the conditions in the detention centre are unhygienic, particularly the allocation of shared bathrooms, exacerbating the potential for transmission of an outbreak of coronavirus.
Evacuee Belinda Chen told the ABC: “The hygiene issues make it worse than a prison.
“I understood that there would be very limited facilities here, but the actual condition is no facilities at all. It’s thousands of times worse than I imagined.”
Others said while the conditions were spartan, they were adequate.
Kai Zhang told the ABC conditions were “not very good, but still acceptable”.
“The only thing I’m not used to is the food here, it’s not very ideal for us. I hope with more staff to follow up our conditions, this can be improved,” he said.