Egypt has sent a special jet to bring hundreds of Egyptian nationals back home from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic began, the aviation ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
An Airbus A330-200 aircraft took off from Cairo International Airport on Sunday morning bound for Wuhan with a special health ministry medical team on board. The flight has 297 seats.
Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said late on Saturday that 306 out of a total 345 Egyptian nationals in Wuhan have requested to return home.
The aviation ministry was not immediately available to explain how the remaining Egyptians will return.
Earlier on Sunday, Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez told satellite TV channel CBC Extra that the jet is set to take off from Wuhan on Sunday evening, adding that all the returning Egyptians do not show any signs of the coronavirus.
Chinese authorities are screening all travellers leaving Wuhan and have banned anyone who has symptoms of the deadly virus from leaving the city, he added.
Egypt first announced on Thursday that it had allocated a special jet to evacuate Egyptian expatriates from Wuhan, the epicentre of the growing epidemic, which has killed over 300 people in China.
All Egyptian travellers brought from the Chinese city will be screened and suspected cases will be quarantined, officials said.
The virus has spread to other countries including the US, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and others. More than 130 cases have been reported in around two dozen countries.
Egypt's national airline EgyptAir announced last week that it was suspending all flights to and from Chinese cities, with Hangzhou flights suspended starting 1 February, and Beijing and Guangzhou flights starting 4 February.
The flagship carrier added that it would resume flights to the Chinese cities according to incoming reservations and demand.