'We need to get out': New Zealanders in Wuhan plead for help to evacuate

New Zealand families trapped in Wuhan during China’s coronavirus outbreak have made public and emotional pleas for their evacuation.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has echoed their call, putting pressure on the New Zealand government to repatriate its citizens.

Aaron Mahon, who has been living in the central Chinese city for the last year, told his fears to the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday.

“The feeling is that we’re going to die in China. We need to get out of here,” he said. “We’re happy to go into quarantine. We just need help to get out of the city.”

A dozen countries, including Australia but not New Zealand, have confirmed cases of the virus, which has already killed at least 106 people, most of them in Hubei province of which Wuhan is the capital.

Wuhan, and much of Hubei – home to almost 60 million people – is under a travel ban, preventing movement.

Joanna, another Kiwi who spoke to Radio NZ without using her last name, is in Wuhan visiting her family for lunar new year but is now “very worried” for their safety.

“I feel a little disappointed since many other countries are taking action already, but it seems like the New Zealand government is falling behind,” she said.

“It’s quite scary here. There’s all kinds of rumours online and there’s a shortage of medical supplies. If we go outside, we cannot buy masks anywhere. There’s also a shortage of food. A lot of shelves are empty.”

The United States and Japan have committed to flying citizens home, but as yet Australia or New Zealand is yet to do so.

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Both Joanna and Mahon said they had been brushed off by Kiwi embassy officials in China.

The stories have enraged Nationals leader Bridges, who said the government was “sitting on its hands”.

“We have a desperate family telling the media they fear they’ll die of the virus or die of starvation. The government needs to act to protect them,” he said.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to discuss the matter at the government’s first cabinet meeting of the year on Tuesday.


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