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Aussies in coronavirus epicentre to be evacuated to Christmas Island

Plans to evacuate hundreds of Australians trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan following an outbreak of coronavirus are advancing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

Mr Morrison said the evacuations would be done on a "last in, first out" basis.

While he revealed the government’s intentions to remove Australians from Hubei province, he acknowledged it was a complex and complicated task.

“At this stage we are in the planning phase,” he said addressing the media on Wednesday.

He said they are faced with a “limited window” and failed to comment further on exactly how the Australians would be removed.

Embassy officials met with Chinese authorities in Beijing earlier this week to discuss the diplomatic options available to help citizens in Wuhan and are expected to try to enter Hubei province later this week to work on an evacuation plan.

A woman is transported on a stretcher inside a Wuhan hospital. Source: Getty
A woman is transported on a stretcher inside a Wuhan hospital. Source: Getty

The US Embassy in Beijing has reportedly chartered a plane to pick up its consular staff on Wednesday while the European Commission said it would help fund two aircraft to fly EU citizens home, including 250 French nationals.

The federal government will set up a quarantine centre on Christmas Island to house and treat everyone transported under the plan. Those taken to the island would spend 14 days there.

Mr Morrison said he would be focusing on Australians in Hubei who are “isolated and vulnerable” and without an “established support infrastructure.”

“There are some people who will be there for some time and effectively have been living there for some period of time,” he said.

“We are talking about people who are there not in those circumstances, those who don't have support structures in that place, those who are particularly vulnerable because they might have young children or they may be elderly.”

So far 106 people have died in China from the virus, 100 of those in Hubei. The number of confirmed cases has rocketed beyond 4500, a large spike since Tuesday.

Mr Morrison said there are 600 Australians registered within the epicentre.

More to come.

With AAP

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