Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on January 28 that the government was ready to send an aircraft to fetch Bulgarian students from Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak of the new coronavirus began.
“We are looking for a way to get the students back from Wuhan. We will send an aircraft to collect them, no matter how much it costs,” Borissov said.
Later in the day, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said that Bulgaria would like to send a plane, but Wuhan is under quarantine.
On the evening of January 28, the European Commission said that the EU Civil Protection Mechanism had been activated at the request of France. Two aircraft would be mobilised to repatriate EU citizens from the Wuhan area to Europe, the Commission said.
Bulgarian National Radio reported on January 27 that the Foreign Ministry and the Bulgarian embassy in Beijing were working on getting the three students out of Wuhan. Zaharieva said in the January 28 television interview that there were four students.
The charge d’affaires of the Bulgarian embassy, Vladislav Spassov, said that the Bulgarian students in Wuhan were in good health and Bulgarian diplomats were in constant contact with them. The students wanted to leave China, he said.
There were many complications, whether evacuating the students by train or by aircraft, he said. Departing flights from Wuhan have been cancelled.
It would not be possible for the Bulgarians to have a separate flight, so the three Bulgarian students in Wuhan were likely to travel with other European citizens. “Decisions will be made in Europe, not here,” Spassov said.
Official figures for 2019 showed 373 Bulgarians resident in mainland China, mostly in the cities of Shanghai and Beijing, as well as in Jiangsu province.
World Health Organization figures as of January 27 showed that worldwide, there were 2798 cases of coronavirus, 2741 of them in China. There were 5794 suspected cases in China. Eighty people had died of the virus in China and 461 cases there were declared severe.