Two hundred Americans to face quarantine in California

Charter plane arrived in AlaskaImage copyright
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Image caption

The chartered flight carrying US citizens arrived in Alaska early Wednesday morning for refuelling and additional screenings

Some 200 US citizens are due to be quarantined in California after arriving from Wuhan, China amid the coronavirus oubreak.

The passengers, mostly diplomats, were evacuated via a chartered flight that landed on US soil on Wednesday.

They will be quarantined for at least 72 hours, but could be kept isolated for up to two weeks if they have any symptoms, officials said.

The flight landed at a US air base near Riverside, California.

Earlier, the flight stopped in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel while the 201 were given an initial screen for symptoms. None exhibited any signs of the coronavirus, according to the state’s chief medical officer. Five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US as of Tuesday.

The Department of State, which chartered the flight, said places aboard were offered to government workers, with unfilled seats sold to US citizens on a “reimbursable basis”, though it was unclear if the agency was offering to pay back the reported $1,000 per ticket cost.

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It was originally scheduled to land at the civilian Ontario International Airport, some 30 miles (48km) from Los Angeles, but was diverted to the March Air Reserve military base.

The Ontario airport had prepared for the arrival of the chartered flight on Tuesday by setting up showers, bathrooms and beds in a hangar. The decision to move the flight to the air base came that evening.

The switch was made for logistical reasons, Curt Hagman, a San Bernardino county official said.

Media captionLike others who’ve been in Hubei province, the BBC’s Stephen McDonell is staying away from the office for two weeks

Mr Hagman had earlier said passengers could be quarantined for up to two weeks.

The US Department of Defence said they will work with Health and Human Services officials to care for the evacuees. Any passengers who fall ill will be transported to a civilian hospital.

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Alex Azar, the US Health and Human Services secretary, said: “Americans should know that this is a potentially very serious public health threat.”

The CDC will be carrying out screenings at 20 commercial airports.

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  • 132Deaths

  • 5,974Confirmed cases

  • 9,239Suspected cases

  • 16Other countries with confirmed cases

Source: China National Health Commission as of the end of 28 January; WHO

As the severity of the outbreak deepens, the White House is considering temporarily banning flights from China, US media report.

The UK, Australia, Japan and EU nations have also been repatriating citizens.

The virus has caused more than 130 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries.

Media captionWhat are viruses? And how do they spread?

During the 2003 global Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, US patients were isolated to contain the spread, but as there was limited transmission in the country, there was no population-based quarantine, according to the CDC.

In 2014, fears over Ebola prompted a number of US states to impose quarantine policies.