Coronavirus: More than 200 Australians flown home after 14-day quarantine

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Australian nationals arrive in Sydney after a quarantine on Christmas Island. Photo: 17 February 2020Image source, EPA
Image caption,
None of the returnees will be required to take any further tests

More than 200 Australians have been flown back home after 14 days in quarantine on remote Christmas Island amid coronavirus fears.

They were evacuated from China's Hubei province - the epicentre of the deadly outbreak - on 3 February.

With no cases reported during the minimum required time, they were taken to six cities across Australia.

Many of the returnees, including children, expressed relief, saying they were happy to be finally home.

More than 70,600 people across China have been infected by the virus, with 1,771 deaths. Most new cases and deaths in the past 24 hours have been reported in Wuhan, Hubei's largest city.

More than two dozen countries around the world have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Australia is among them with 15 cases.

Outside mainland China, five deaths have been reported - in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The virus, which causes acute respiratory disease, has been named Covid-19.

What's the latest on the Australian returnees?

The Australian citizens and permanent residents, including dozens of children, arrived back home on Monday evening.

"I'm really glad we will be able to go home now. I feel really lucky," Catherine Chen, who landed in Perth, was quoted as saying by Australian broadcaster ABC.

Ms Chen, who runs a childcare centre in Western Australia, had been separated from her husband for a month after travelling with her two children to Hubei.

Meanwhile, Mel Pleno arrived back in Sydney with his wife and three children.

"We're very grateful for the Australian government and their response to the situation, and chartering a plane for my family to come back," Mr Pleno said, quoted by Australia's 7 News.

None of the returnees will be required to take any further tests.

What is Christmas Island?

The remote island is an Australian external territory, about 2,700km (1,680 miles) from the mainland, and is best known for its immigration detention centre.


Since 2003, thousands of asylum seekers have been detained there under Australia's hardline refugee policy.

Evacuees had previously expressed concern about the plan, and some have chosen to stay in Wuhan.

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Medical facilities have been set up on Christmas Island in the past days

The Christmas Island facility was closed in 2018 but re-opened the following year.

Critics had earlier questioned the state of medical facilities on the island, and the holding of citizens in an immigration detention centre.