TOKYO/NEW YORK -- A charter flight arranged by Japan arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday morning, evacuating Japanese citizens from the quarantined epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
All 206 passengers aboard the flight from Wuhan were Japanese nationals. Five -- three men aged from their 30s to 50s and two women in their 50s -- were immediately hospitalized after showing such symptoms as fever and cough.
The five people later tested negative for the new coronavirus but remained under observation, people familiar with the matter said. A total of 12 passengers were hospitalized.
"I'm relieved to be able to come back," a Japanese businessman and member of the local chamber of commerce told reporters upon his arrival at the Tokyo airport.
The All Nippon Airways plane carrying Japanese passengers from Wuhan landed at Tokyo's Haneda Airport shortly after 8:40 a.m. It had departed from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at around 5 a.m. local time, roughly two hours behind schedule. This is the first time that the Japanese government has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens due to an outbreak of an infectious disease.
Meanwhile, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24, a U.S. cargo plane carrying evacuees from Wuhan landed in Anchorage, Alaska, shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday local time. It was to refuel before carrying on to California. The plane's final destination in the state may be March Air Reserve Base, the Associated Press reported, rather than Ontario International Airport as the U.S. government had originally announced.
The government is arranging to charter two more flights to Wuhan for Wednesday evening and Thursday to carry the remaining 440 Japanese nationals asking to return home.
Japan's plane, an Boeing 767-381, had a doctor, two nurses and a quarantine officer on board to screen passengers for possible coronavirus infections on the flight home, officials said. En route, the Japanese evacuees were asked to fill out health questionnaires, have their temperatures taken, and undergo other checks.
The other evacuees, who are not showing symptoms, will also receive checkups at a national hospital in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. They have been asked to quarantine themselves for about two weeks to make sure they are not infected.
Those without symptoms were to be driven home in a government-chartered bus if they live in the Tokyo area. Evacuees residing outside the capital area were to be temporarily housed in government-designated hotel accommodations.
"We will spare no effort to provide care for their health," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday in a meeting of the lower house Budget Committee.
Japan is one of several countries evacuating nationals from Wuhan, the Chinese city of 11 million people that is the epicenter of an outbreak of a deadly new form of coronavirus that has killed more than 130 people and sickened about 6,000.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi began the process of arranging the evacuation on Sunday with a call to Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Tokyo had initially proposed using multiple planes, but the plan was scaled back to one jet based on the Chinese side's ability to handle incoming traffic, officials said.
South Korea and India are also preparing to help their nationals leave Wuhan.