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Brazil to evacuate citizens stuck in Wuhan

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President Jair Bolsonaro had said last week that "diplomatic, budgetary and legal obstacles" prevented his government from evacuating the roughly 40 Brazilians stuck in the city at the heart of the outbreak.

[RIO DE JANEIRO] In a change of course, Brazil will send two planes to evacuate its citizens stranded in Wuhan, China by the deadly new coronavirus outbreak, the government said on Tuesday.

President Jair Bolsonaro had said last week that "diplomatic, budgetary and legal obstacles" prevented his government from evacuating the roughly 40 Brazilians stuck in the city at the heart of the outbreak.

Even as the United States, France, Germany, Japan and other countries repatriated their citizens, the far-right leader insisted Brazil would first have to pass a law providing for those involved to be quarantined, among other measures.

But his government has now decided to bring them home, after all: it will dispatch two presidential planes Wednesday to fetch them, the defense and foreign ministers told a news conference.

The evacuees are expected to return Saturday, and will be placed in quarantine for 18 days at a military base about 80km from Brasilia, said Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva.

Some of the Brazilians stuck in Wuhan had not been shy in broadcasting their frustration.

On Friday, professional footballer Millene Fernandes made an emotional appeal to her government to bring her home.

"I'm extremely worried. I haven't left the house in days. I want to leave China, for my own health... and I hope the Brazilian government can help me," she said in a video message sent to AFP by her spokesman.

She later managed to leave on a flight to Portugal, along with her Portuguese agent.

Sunday, a group of Brazilians posted a YouTube video demanding the government evacuate them.

The same day, the government said it would bring home all Brazilians who "express a wish to return to Brazil" - but only after Congress passed a law on the matter, which it has yet to do.

Brazil has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus so far. Authorities said on Tuesday they were investigating 13 suspected cases.

The Brazilian health ministry has been giving daily updates on the virus, which has killed 425 people, mostly in and around Wuhan.

AFP