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A plane chartered by the Ukrainian government departed three hours late for its ultimate destination of China where a group of Ukrainians and foreign nationals will be evacuated from Wuhan city, the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Operated by SkyUp airlines, the Boeing 737-700 aircraft took off from the Boryspil International Airport near Kyiv on February 19 at 2:50 a.m. local time, three hours behind schedule.

It is first flying to Almaty in Kazakhstan from where it will fly to the capital of Hubei province, which reported 132 new deaths the previous day.

Meanwhile, Beijing reported total fatalities from the COVID-19 virus reaching 2,004, up by 136 from the previous day. The total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far is 74,185.

Flight data from the carrier shows the plane is scheduled to arrive back in Kyiv on February 20 at 8:05 a.m.

Ukraine’s Health Ministry said earlier that 49 citizens and 25 foreign nationals are expected for evacuation. Nationals of Israel, Norway, Montenegro, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Spain are among the foreigners.

Upon their arrival, Ukraine is looking to house them under quarantine for 14 days at one or more of four sites, depending on the ultimate size of the group that arrives.

However, the potential sites weren’t disclosed “due to safety concerns,” Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska told journalists in Kyiv on February 18.

Some two-dozen people on February 18 protested at a sanatorium in the western Ternopil region over concerns that the evacuated people would be placed there.

Earlier, online flight data from SkyUp showed the chartered plane was scheduled to land in Lviv in western Ukraine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against a global over-reaction to the epidemic following panic-buying, event cancelations, and concerns about cruise ship travel.

“Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

With reporting by AP, Hromadske, and


[1] SkyUp Airlines online flight schedule ➤