27 Jan 2020 10:50

China still not allowing repatriation of foreigners from Wuhan - Kazakh Foreign Ministry

NUR-SULTAN. Jan 27 (Interfax) - Kazakhstan is ready to repatriate its citizens from Wuhan if the Chinese authorities allow it to do so, Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov told Interfax.

"We are ready to evacuate [our citizens, students] if the Chinese authorities allow us to do so," Smadiyarov said when asked whether Kazakhstan was planning to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan.

Diplomats gathered information about the number of Kazakh citizens staying in Wuhan before the quarantine was imposed and "prepared for various scenarios," he said.

"Yet the Chinese authorities closed off Wuhan and prohibited everyone from leaving. On the first days of the quarantine, enquiries regarding such possibility were made with the Chinese side. The Chinese side has not given permission to any country; the city is quarantined," Smadiyarov said.

The Kazakh government also told Interfax that the possibility of repatriation was being considered.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said earlier that over 10,000 Kazakh students were staying in China, including 230 registered in Wuhan.

Ninety-eight students were left in Wuhan as of January 24, and the rest travelled to Kazakhstan and other countries for the Lunar New Year break.

Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin on Sunday ordered the authorities to step up interaction with Kazakh citizens staying in China and to render consular and other assistance. Government agencies were tasked with interacting with relevant authorities of China and other concerned countries for coordinating efforts toward preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Urgent evacuation of Kazakh students and other citizens of Kazakhstan from the Chinese city of Wuhan shall be provided if necessary," the Kazakh government said in a statement.

An outbreak of pneumonia began in Wuhan in December 2019. It appeared later that the outbreak was caused by the novel coronavirus.

Chinese scientists identified snakes as the probable source of the virus. It is known that the first patients either visited or worked at the Wuhan wholesale market selling sea food and animals, such as snakes, birds, and bats. The market was quarantined after the outbreak started.

China's National Health Commission said earlier that 24 people had died from coronavirus-caused pneumonia in China over the past day, and the total death toll had risen to 80.

All recent deaths occurred in the Hubei province.