At least 100 Australian school children are reportedly stranded in Wuhan, China, amid a deadly outbreak of novel coronavirus that’s claimed more than 80 lives and sickened thousands.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country is working to bring the children and any other Australians stuck in the city — the epicenter of the outbreak — home.
“We know at this point that the Chinese authorities have closed the Wuhan city as well as other cities within Hubei province,” Hunt told ABC Radio on Monday morning, according to The Guardian. “We are working to make sure that there is support for those Australians and we are also working on, as are other countries, trying to secure their ability to return to Australia. At this point in time, the foreign minister is working around the clock on that.”
It’s not clear why the school children were in Wuhan in the first place.
The news comes after the Chinese government last week quarantined the city of Wuhan in an effort to contain the outbreak, shutting down airports and public transportation such as buses, ferries and more.
Hunt would not confirm if the Australian government plans to charter a plane to evacuate any of its citizens from Wuhan. The U.S. government reportedly has plans to evacuate citizens and diplomats by using a charter plane.
However, Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, is working with Chinese officials “on all options to secure the Australians,” Hunt said.
There have been at least four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, while a fifth and “highly probable” case is working to be confirmed. Hunt told ABC Radio that officials suspect there will be more.