Belgians evacuated from China amid coronavirus outbreak arrived in Brussels
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Belgians evacuated from China amid coronavirus outbreak arrived in Brussels

Shortly after landing, the repatriated Belgians were taken to a military hospital, where they will be quarantined for two weeks. © Belga

Belgians evacuated from the Chinese province of Hubei amid the spread of a deadly coronavirus outbreak arrived in a military airport in Brussels at the weekend.

The plane carrying the 12 Belgians landed at the Melsbroek military airport at around 9:00 PM on Saturday, in a repatriation operation which included other European nationals.

The Belgian evacuees’ return was organised out of the Belgian Embassy in Wuhan, capital of Hubei and city where the outbreak started.

Their plane first landed in a small French town near the southern city of Marseille on Saturday afternoon, where French passengers disembarked and underwent medical checks, which tested negative, the Belga news agency reports on Monday.

The flight’s other passengers were then boarded into different flights depending on their destination, with the Belgians and the Dutch boarding one plane together with evacuees from Slovakia, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Shortly after landing in Brussels, the Belgian evacuees were taken by bus to a military hospital in Neder-Over-Heembeek, near the northern Brussels district of Laeken.

“The Dutch will be taken by bus to Eindhoven and the Danes, Slovaks and Czechs will fly to their own country,” reporter Leen Vervaeke, one of the Belgian evacuees, told VRT.

The 12 Belgians will remain quarantined in the hospital for around two weeks where they will undergo medical checks for the virus, named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, which has sickened over 17,000 and killed hundreds, mostly in mainland China.

Their return to the country comes as the first coronavirus death outside of China was reported in Philippines at the weekend and as the virus continued to spread globally, with confirmed cases in at least 25 countries.

On Monday, the death toll from the virus surged to 362, surpassing the death toll of the 2013 SARS viral epidemic —which belongs to the same family of viruses—, which killed 349 people.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times