China to send chartered flight to Iran to bring 'stranded' Chinese nationals back home: embassy

By Bai Yunyi and Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/3 18:15:28 Last Updated: 2020/3/3 1:15:28

A man wearing a mask is seen on a bus in downtown Tehran, Iran, Feb. 23, 2020.(Photo by Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua)

Chinese Embassy staff in Iran confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday that the first charter flight will arrive in the country to take Chinese nationals stranded there back to China.

Global Times also learned from Chinese people in Iran that priority will be given to students stranded in the holy city of Qom, where the coronavirus infections are the most serious in the country.

A Chinese living in Tehran who asked for anonymity told the Global Times that the first charter flight operated by China Southern Airlines will arrive in Tehran, Iran's capital, on Tuesday evening, with a capacity of over 200 passengers. "Tonight's charter flight will give priority to the Chinese stranded in Qom, where the disease has hit hardest. Most of them are students. There are probably fewer than 30 students now.  Employees or businessmen of Chinese companies in other parts of Iran will be considered for the remaining vacancies," the man said. "The first charter plane will fly directly to Lanzhou in China."

"But it's not an evacuation [of Chinese nationals from Iran], it's a commercial charter flight. Chinese people who want to return home need to sign up and pay for a ticket."

Another Chinese man in Iran, who identified himself as Lao Qi, told the Global Times that he hopes to take a direct charter flight from Iran to Shanghai in two days, but neither the time nor the details of the flight have been finalized. He has yet to receive specific instructions on how he should be quarantined when he returns home, but is prepared to undergo a 14-day intensive quarantine.

Staff from the Gansu health commission told the Global Times on Tuesday that people from countries hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus outbreak, including Iran, must undergo 14 days of quarantine.

According to Lao Qi, since China and Iran are both countries seriously affected by the outbreak, direct commercial flights from Iran to China have been completely suspended, and there are only two routes for flights through a third country, which transfer through Moscow or Bangkok. 

"Because there have been several imported infection cases [in China] when people returned from Iran through a third country over the past few days, the embassy has advised the Chinese community in Iran not to use this method, which brings unmanageable risk. If necessary, a chartered plane will be sent to us," he said.

Lao Qi said that he learned every passenger needs to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they return to China no matter what their destination city is. But he did not know whether he would be put under quarantine in Shanghai, where his flight is supposed to land, or in the city where he lives.

"Ninety percent of the Chinese I know in Iran want to go home now," he told the Global Times. "They are worried about the rapid development of the epidemic in Iran and the lack of strong anti-epidemic measures by the local government and the lack of awareness among the Iranian public," he said.

Lao Qi, who had been to Qom four days earlier to help distribute masks to local Chinese, saw that most people on the streets still did not wear masks. "There were maybe only one or two people wearing masks on the street," he said.


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