Four out of 77 people weren’t allowed to board a Ukrainian plane sent to evacuate them from Wuhan city in China, the epicenter of a new coronavirus from which more than 2,000 people have died.
Speaking on Ukrainian television on February 19, Deputy Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said three Ukrainians and one foreign national weren’t allowed on the government-chartered plane after they were checked by Chinese medical personnel.
“After that, Ukrainian professionals, medics, who are also on the flight, conducted a final examination,” Lyashko said.
Earlier, a deputy health minister told journalists that all 87 people who arrived to board the plane, including 48 Ukrainians, were cleared to fly.
The plane will first fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan where two Kazakh citizens will disembark. There, the plane’s crew will change and it will fly onward to Ukraine, where it is scheduled to land at 8:05 a.m. local time on February 20.
Nationals from Israel, Norway, Montenegro, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Spain are among the foreigners expected to be evacuated, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Beijing has reported 2,004 total fatalities from the COVID-19 virus, up 136 from the previous day. The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far is 74,185, with around 700 cases in other countries around the world.
Upon the passengers' arrival, Ukraine is looking to house them under quarantine for 14 days at one or more of four sites, depending on the ultimate size of the group that arrives.
However, the potential sites weren't disclosed "due to safety concerns," Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska told journalists in Kyiv on February 18.
Some two dozen people on February 18 protested at a sanatorium in the western Ternopil region over concerns that the evacuated people would be placed there.
Earlier, online flight data from SkyUp showed that the chartered plane was scheduled to land in Lviv in western Ukraine.
Outside China, five fatalities and 827 cases have been reported in 30 locations so far, with more than half of those infected on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan.
Two Russian women were among the 542 passengers who were allowed to disembark the Diamond Princess vessel on February 19 after testing negative for the pathogen.
Beyond China, the cruise ship is the largest cluster of infections and there are at least 524 cases among the 3,700 who have been on board.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against a global overreaction to the epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations, and concerns about cruise ship travel.
"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.