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Australians trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, say they have to pay up to 1,000 Australian dollars, or $673, to be evacuated.
Australia has proposed a plan to transport its citizens from Wuhan to its remote Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island — normally used to house asylum seekers — for a 14-day quarantine.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, after the quarantine evacuees will be dropped into the western city of Perth and will have to get home by themselves.
Australians trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan say they are being asked to pay up to 1,000 Australian dollars, or $673, to be evacuated and transported to a remote island for quarantine.
Those evacuating the city, which has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, told The Sydney Morning Herald that their rescue came at a price.
In addition to paying for flights, they said, they also needed to sign a waiver to be held in quarantine for 14 days on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean territory used by Australia to house asylum seekers.
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According to The Herald, after the quarantine evacuees will be dropped into the western city of Perth and there must figure out and fund their travels home.
The outlet said the government was also floating an idea to transport people to mainland Australia first and then take them by military aircraft to Christmas Island, because the runway on the island cannot accommodate a full passenger plane.
The Herald estimates that 600 Australians are trapped in the Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defended the plan, saying the island was one of the few places that could accommodate such a large influx of people for quarantine.
"The reality is that people need to be accommodated somewhere for 14 days — I can't clear out a hospital in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane," he said at a news conference on Thursday.
"I don't have a facility otherwise that we can quickly accommodate from what might be many hundreds of people and Christmas Island is purpose built for exactly this scenario," he said. "So, we can isolate people within the center from those living on Christmas Island."
The virus has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 7,000 others around the world, though the vast majority of cases are in China.
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