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(4th LD) S. Korea's 2nd chartered plane leaves for Wuhan for evacuation

All News 21:20 January 31, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with departure of South Korea's evacuation plane for China; CHANGES headline)
By Song Sang-ho and Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- A second chartered plane left for the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday to evacuate some 350 South Koreans from the epicenter of the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The Korean Air passenger jet departed from Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul with a quick response team of around 20 medical and quarantine officials on board.

The flight came more than 12 hours after South Korea brought home 368 people stranded in China from Wuhan on the first chartered plane.

"What we'll primarily focus on doing this time is to speed up the quarantine process so that everyone can return home more safely and more quickly," Lee Sang-jin, deputy foreign minister for overseas Koreans and consular affairs, told reporters at the airport. He is leading the quick response team for Friday's flight.

The second plane is expected to leave Wuhan in the early hours of Saturday.

Lee Sang-jin, deputy foreign minister for overseas Koreans and consular affairs, heads to the departure gate at Gimpo International Airport to board an evacuation flight to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)

A ministry official said earlier that the government received approval for the operation of another chartered plane. South Korea announced a plan Tuesday to bring its nationals home and said it had been in talks with Chinese authorities on sending the evacuation flights.

The evacuees from the second flight will also be subject to a 14-day isolation at two temporary accommodations in the country's central region. Eighteen passengers from the first flight have been taken to hospitals for further examination after showing signs of symptoms.

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.

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.

Authorities at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul carry out quarantine work on the first evacuation flight that brought 368 South Korean citizens home from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, on Jan. 31, 2020. (Yonhap)



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