The Australian government is working with Chinese authorities to get clearance for a plane to airlift more Australians out of the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan to a camp in the Northern Territory after the evacuation was delayed overnight.

The Manigurr-ma Village at Howard Springs, a disused mining camp for 3500 FIFO oil workers located 30km from Darwin, was being prepared to accommodate 280 Australians, with Christmas Island unable to house another couple of hundred evacuees.

The developer's website described the camp in 2014 as having a "high standard of accommodation" with expansive facilities.

After concerns were expressed by the local NT community, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy took to social media on Saturday to explain that people staying at the Howard Springs facility were unlikely to become infectious and their health would be closely monitored.

"We are talking about well people who have been health-screened who are very unlikely to be infectious," he said.

"It is important people living in and around Howard Springs know the novel coronavirus can only be transmitted by close contact with an infectious person and cannot be spread through the air," he said.

"The health and safety of the Howard Springs community is of paramount importance and I am confident the security and public health measures put in place will prevent any risk to the community's health."

Message from Brendan Murphy the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer regarding the quarantined evacuees at the Manigurr-ma accommodation village at Howard Springs.

Posted by SecureNT on Friday, February 7, 2020


An email from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was sent to passengers on Friday telling them that official clearance for the flight had not been secured, the ABC reported.

The email told passengers to return to where they were staying and wait for further information as DFAT worked with Chinese authorities to reschedule the flight for Saturday.

Evacuees were advised on Saturday about a new flight time of 3.15am on Sunday on a Qantas flight, the ABC reported, but warned they would need to meet strict criteria before departure.

"If a fever is detected at a checkpoint, it is possible they will be directed to a Chinese medical facility and not allowed to board the flight," the email read.

The plane, which was originally scheduled to leave Wuhan on Friday night, did not get clearance to land from China.

It would rest with Chinese authorities to sign off on both final approval and all relevant operational requirements.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Qantas flight was currently on the tarmac in Hong Kong.

"We are awaiting approval from the Chinese authorities to fly to Wuhan," the DFAT spokesperson told AAP.

Second load of Australian Wuhan evacuees set to leave_1
Wuhan evacuees will be quarantined in these cabins for the next two weeks. Photo: Facebook

"Many flights out of Wuhan have been delayed. We are engaging closely with the Chinese authorities to ensure our flight can proceed as soon as possible."

"We are in contact with all passengers on the manifest about the status of the flight," the DFAT spokesperson said.

"The assisted departure is a complex operation under difficult circumstances. Any such departure is always subject to operational requirements and to Chinese government final approval."

This will be the second evacuation flight to get Australians out of China.

Related: Coronavirus evacuees land on Christmas Island


The federal government said on Friday evacuees would be screened before boarding the plane in China and continuously monitored by medical staff during the flight.

Anyone found to be unwell on arrival at Darwin will be taken directly to hospital where they will be quarantined, the government said.

Second load of Australian Wuhan evacuees set to leave_2
Passengers went through health checks before boarding the Qantas flight from Wuhan to Darwin. Photo: Getty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned people not to assume any further evacuation flights will be possible, either from Wuhan or mainland China.

Australia has so far had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia.

-with AAP