Within the framework of the response to the crisis linked to the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) coordinated by the Ministry for Solidarity and Health, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs planned, in conjunction with the Ministry for Solidarity and Health, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry for the Armed Forces, an operation to return to European territory by direct flight from Wuhan (China) those French nationals and citizens from Europe and partner countries who wished to return.
In a spirit of European solidarity and in order to give European countries the opportunity to allow those citizens wishing to do so to take advantage of the flights it was providing France took the initiative on January 28 to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. From the outset, foreign nationals, especially European nationals, were included in the planning of the repatriation operations.
The first flight on board a military plane belonging to Esterel Squadron (Airbus A340) left Wuhan and returned 180 French nationals to France on January 31.
A second civilian plane (Airbus A380), which also departed from Wuhan, landed in Istres on February 2 at 2:30 pm with 291 people from 30 countries, including France, on board:
- 254 passengers: 64 French nationals and eligible persons as well as 190 foreigners, including 135 nationals from the EU (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden) and 55 nationals of third countries (Brazil, Georgia, North Macedonia, Mauritius, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, Rwanda, Serbia, the Seychelles and Switzerland);
- 37 support staff, including 31 French nationals (25 government officials and 6 employees of the aircraft charter company) and 6 consular officials of third countries;
The two planes chartered by the French government also delivered medical equipment to Wuhan, donated by France to China to help address the coronavirus crisis.
At the request of the countries concerned, most European nationals were transferred to their countries of origin immediately upon arrival in France.
Very strict health measures have been applied to the entire operation; in particular, a 14-day quarantine is required upon arrival. This measure applies to both citizens and foreigners residing on French soil.
This operation was conducted by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Center (CDCS) in coordination with the Ministry for Solidarity and Health, the Ministry for the Armed Forces, and the Ministry of the Interior. It was also carried out in close coordination with foreign partners, notably European institutions, EU member states and concerned third countries.
France wishes to underscore the effective cooperation with the Chinese authorities that made the smooth conduct of this operation possible. Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in fact discussed this subject with his counterpart, Wang Yi.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs remains particularly attentive to the concerns of our compatriots abroad. Since January 23, our embassy in Beijing, our consulate-general in Wuhan and Ministry agencies have mobilized all their efforts in response to the Coronavirus crisis. France’s consulate-general in Wuhan is in constant contact with our compatriots in Hubei and is monitoring their situation. The minister publicly applauded the services of the Quai d’Orsay’s Crisis and Support Center, our embassy in Beijing and our Consulate-General in Wuhan, which were “exemplary” and were “utterly at the service of our compatriots to reassure them on one hand, and to help repatriate them on the other.”