Sweden to airlift citizens from coronavirus-hit Wuhan

Passengers pass through a health screening checkpoint while leaving Wuhan in China. Photo: AP Photo/Emily Wang
Swedish citizens will receive help from the government to leave the city of Wuhan in China, the centre of the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, in Sweden authorities are preparing for the possibility of the virus spreading to the country, although no cases have yet been confirmed.

“Our hope is to be able to carry out a flight this weekend with those Swedish citizens who want to. Not all the details are clear yet, our work on this is ongoing, but our hope is to be able to do it this weekend,” Foreign Ministry press officer Gunnar Vrang told TT.

The flight is part of an effort coordinated between several countries, and was originally an initiative from France.

In total there are 15 Swedish citizens in Wuhan, the city where the first cases of the virus were confirmed. It is not yet clear how many of them will be on the flight out.

“There are some who will stay there, and some who will come with us. And as we have understood it, the majority have chosen to fly,” said Vrang.

Those Swedes who are flown back to Sweden will be monitored both before and during the journey to confirm that they are all healthy, and will be kept in quarantine for two weeks after their arrival.

So far, more than 170 people have been reported dead due to the coronavirus and a further 8,000 have been infected, with most cases in China where the outbreak started. Cases have also been reported in Europe however, including in France, Switzerland and Finland.

As of Friday morning, there had been no confirmed cases of the virus in Sweden.

Several suspected cases, including two in Skåne and several in the Västra Götaland region, were shown by test results to be negative.

The term 'coronavirus' has been the most searched-for term on the Swedish healthcare website 1177 for several days, with hundreds of thousands of searches.

In the Skåne region, a special phoneline has been set up to support the 1177 healthcare helpline and answer questions from the general public about the virus.

And regional disease control units have also noticed a growing demand for information from the general public, according to Leif Dotevall, a doctor in Västra Götaland who works with communicable diseases.

“There are a lot of questions coming in both from the general public and the healthcare sector,” he said. “The world is holding its breath, people are reading the news and of course you wonder about it.”

“There is a very meticulous plan for what should happen if the virus comes to Sweden. But for now, we're following the situation very carefully, both worldwide and nationally,” said Dotevall.


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