BRASILIA – Brazil’s government was making last-minute preparations on Friday to receive a group of around 30 expatriates from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has infected more than 31,000 people in that giant Asian country.
Two Brazilian air force planes are scheduled to arrive Sunday morning at a military base in Anapolis, a city in the central Brazilian state of Goias where those repatriated evacuees and military personnel involved in the operation will be kept in quarantine for 18 days.
The hotel at Anapolis’ airbase has been adapted to house the arriving Brazilians, who will be kept in separate rooms equipped with television, Internet, a refrigerator-bar, a fan, a telephone and air conditioning.
Should any member of the group show symptoms of the coronavirus, he or she will be transferred immediately by helicopter to the Armed Forces Hospital in Brasilia.
Besides Brazil’s military, the Foreign, Defense and Health Ministries also are taking part in this carefully coordinated central government operation.
The World Health Organization in late January designated the current outbreak of coronavirus a global health emergency.
A disease that causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, it has been confirmed as of Friday in 25 countries and caused more than 600 deaths, nearly all of them in mainland China.
No coronavirus cases have been confirmed thus far in Brazil, according to the Health Ministry’s latest bulletin, although nine possible cases are under investigation in the states of Sao Paulo (3), Rio Grande do Sul (3), Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had initially opposed the repatriation effort but later changed his mind and green-lighted the operation.
Bolsonaro, who has signed into law quarantine rules for this group of expatriates, said their arrival poses no risk to the general population in Brazil.
“It’s a very well-prepared and well-planned operation,” the president said.
The two 36-seat Embraer C-190 jets used in the operation arrived in Wuhan on Friday. In addition to the group of around 30 Brazilians (and their family members who are Chinese nationals), six other foreigners also are to be transported from Wuhan as part of the same operation, but they will step off the planes during a stopover in Poland.
Twelve Brazilian air force health professionals, two Health Ministry doctors, two journalists and eight crew members also have made the trip to Wuhan.
The operation marks a rare chance for these people to leave China because all of Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan, has been under virtual quarantine for more than two weeks in an effort to contain the virus.
All of the evacuees will undergo various medical tests before they board one of the planes. If any of them manifest any symptoms compatible with the novel coronavirus, they will not be allowed to travel with the rest of the group.