A cargo flight from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan will arrive in Sydney on Wednesday evening, a mere 24 hours after the Chinse government lifted lockdown on the city.
The direct flight, a Boeing 747, is being operated by Suparna Airlines, a part of Hainan Airlines Group and will be carrying freight. Although it is unknown whether the goods on board flight YZR7447 are exports or imports, it has been suggested that the plane may be delivering personal protective gear to help protect people against the virus.
There will be no passengers on this flight, which is said to be currently delayed, but it will have members of airline crew on board.
A spokesperson from Sydney Airport has said that strict disease control protocols will be followed.
They said: “Cargo handlers operating out of the airport are following the strictest hygiene and infection control protocols in line with advice from health authorities.”
The flight will be unloaded in a special freight apron area of Sydney airport and is expected to land at 9.14 pm after a nine-hour direct flight from the city.
The decision to allow a flight to leave Wuhan after over two months of the toughest lockdown restrictions worldwide is likely to be met with criticism. The Chinese government is currently under scrutiny about its response to the outbreak and whether they have been entirely honest in reporting their coronavirus figures.
According to official numbers, more than 2,500 people in Wuhan have died from the virus, but many believe that this figure is actually a lot higher and is concerned about asymptomatic infections as the city starts to return to normality.
At midnight on Wednesday, Chinese authorities allowed residents of Wuhan to leave the city for the first time since January 23rd when 11 million people were put under lockdown to try and contain the highly infectious coronavirus.
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The decision was met with delight by local residents after 76 days of drastic lockdown measures with city officials choosing to mark the occasion with an uplifting light show. Trains and bus terminals across the city were shining bright, with buildings in the city centre lit up with the words: “Hello, Wuhan.”
China Eastern has confirmed that they are now operating 30 flights from Wuhan to other cities within China, with an estimated 1,600 trips already booked to cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. More than 55,000 railway tickets have also been booked to leave the city, and long-distance bus services have been reopened.
However, certain measures remain in place with schools, colleges and nurseries still closed and authorities advising residents to limit outings and not to attend mass gatherings; a sign that the Chinese government may not believe that the epidemic is fully over in Wuhan.
Officials have advised residents to continue to wear protective masks when out in public, and the official People’s Daily newspaper said on Weibo: “Zero new cases doesn’t mean zero risk. Opening up the city gates does not mean opening up the door to one’s home.”