A plane containing approximately 200 passengers from Wuhan, China, was scheduled to land for refueling Tuesday night at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.
The plane was chartered by the U.S. government in order to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, the Associated Press reported.Wuhan has been the epicenter of an outbreak of the coronavirus.
The plane, which was expected to go on to California after refueling in Anchorage, was scheduled to arrive in a section of the North Terminal that is not currently accessible to the public and is isolated from the South Terminal, according to a Tuesday press release from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The arrival was not expected to have any impact on regularly scheduled flights.
“The safety of all Alaskans, those assisting them and the passengers on the plane remain our top priority,” DHSS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said in the release. “We have been working diligently with federal, state and local partners to assure that this effort goes smoothly. Bringing these people home to the United States is an important mission and we are fortunate to have strong health partners in Alaska with the capacity to assist these U.S. citizens in their effort to return home.”
All passengers on board were screened multiple times prior to departure from Wuhan for signs or symptoms of respiratory illness and were only allowed to board if they showed no symptoms. The passengers are scheduled to disembark in Anchorage in order to assure their safety while the plane refuels, to undergo further health screenings and to clear U.S. customs. The health screenings are coordinated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and any passengers found to have a cough, fever or shortness of breath will undergo additional assessments.
In a Tuesday afternoon press release, DHSS said those in close contact with passengers — health screening staff, U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff and one ground handler — would be required to wear CDC-recommended personal protective equipment.
More than 4,500 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in China and more than 100 people have died, according to the AP. Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
In response to the outbreak, China has quarantined the city of Wuhan as well as 16 other cities in the Hubei province. Other countries like Japan and South Korea have planned similar evacuations.