S. Korea to send 2nd evacuation flight to Wuhan Friday night
South Korea will send a second chartered flight to the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan late Friday to evacuate some 350 South Korean nationals out of the region under lockdown, the foreign ministry said.
A Korean Air passenger jet is set to depart from Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul with a quick response team of around 20 medical and quarantine officials on board. The exact time of its departure has yet to be announced.
“We have received approval for the operation of a chartered plane through consultations with China,” a ministry official told reporters. “One chartered plane will leave tonight.”
The scheduled flight comes after South Korea’s first evacuation plane flew out 368 South Koreans from Wuhan earlier in the day.
On Tuesday, South Korea announced a plan to bring its nationals home and said it had been in talks with Chinese authorities on sending the evacuation flights.
Seoul earlier sought to send two planes each on Thursday and Friday for the evacuation mission, but the number of flights was reduced to one for each day amid speculation that Beijing wants to avoid the image of foreigners leaving the country en masse.
Kang Hyung-sik, head of the ministry’s international safety management bureau, said during a press briefing earlier that the government was making its best efforts to make sure the second flight can operate as planned.
Thursday’s evacuation flight took off from Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, at 8:57 p.m., after an hourslong delay caused by slower-than-expected approval from Chinese authorities.
South Korea confirmed five more cases of the virus Friday, bringing the total number of infections to 11. A day earlier, the country announced the first case of person-to-person transmission on its soil.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, has been under a lockdown aimed at blocking the spread of the virus.
Since the novel coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan late last month, China has reported more than 9,690 confirmed cases and 210 deaths. The virus has spread to around 20 countries, including the United States, Japan and Canada.