The U.S. Department of State (DOS) said on Feb. 4, two further flights evacuating U.S. citizens from Wuhan—the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak—have departed for the United States.
“Two planes have departed Wuhan en route to the United States,” a DOS spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Tuesday evening.
No further information was provided by the spokesperson on how many people are on board the aircraft and where the planes will land.
However, a U.S. official familiar with the matter told CNN earlier, on condition of anonymity, that the two planes would be carrying some 550 people back to the United States, and that they are expected to land at two military bases in California.
The official said the two locations are expected to be Travis Air Force Base, located between San Francisco and Sacramento, and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
It is the second such operation in the past week after some 195 Americans were on Jan. 28 evacuated from Wuhan on a charter flight and placed under a 14-day quarantine in California, to evaluate whether they have contracted the deadly new strain of coronavirus.
The first group of evacuees is currently staying in the living quarters inside the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, around 60 miles from Los Angeles. The air force base is under strict surveillance 24/7.
The two jetliners en route to the United States carried shipments of private aid into China, following criticism from China’s Foreign Ministry about the U.S. government’s lack of assistance, reported WSJ.
“The U.S. government hasn’t provided any substantial assistance to us, but it was the first to evacuate personnel from its consulate in Wuhan, the first to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travelers,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday. “All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example.”
Her comments came as the Chinese Communist Party, after a week of discussions, accepted help from the United States—allowing American experts into the country to help study and respond to the outbreak.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters last week that the United States offered to send a team of health experts to China amid the coronavirus outbreak, but China rejected the offer.
In addition to the flights already en route to the United States, the DOS added said it may stage additional evacuation flights for private U.S. citizens still in Wuhan on Thursday, Feb. 6.
The flights would be leaving from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, and the DOS has urged “interested U.S. citizens in possession of valid passports,” to contact the department with a specific list of information, the U.S. Embassy in China said in a release.
The State Department on Jan. 31 raised the travel alert for visiting China from level three to level four—the highest level of warning—cautioning U.S. nationals not to go to the country.
Family members of all government employees who are under the age of 21 are ordered to leave, according to the latest travel advisory.
The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Oceania; experts have said that the Chinese regime is likely underreporting the true scale of the virus.