After a day full of hope and fear and a nightly odyssey, the Germans flown out of China are safe. “We’re back in Germany,” Thomas Scheller from Würzburg let his friends know after landing in Frankfurt. He, his wife Chloe and their three-year-old daughter (both US citizens) were among the approximately 130 people on board of Bundeswehr Airbus “Kurt Schumacher”, which landed in Frankfurt on Saturday at 4.30 p.m.
Two passengers in Frankfurt tested positive
After an investigation, they were brought by bus to Germersheim, 100 kilometers away, where the returnees are to be screened in a barrack for 14 days. Würzburg had just had breakfast in the morning and wrote: “We are fine!” There was television in the room and internet was available.
At around 11:00 a.m., this news caused unrest: Two of the more than 100 German returnees to China have been infected with the corona virus. That explained the district office of the district Germersheim on Sunday morning, as first reported by SWR. The two are said to be hospitalized.
As the district administrator of the Germersheim district, Fritz Brechtel (CDU), announced on Sunday, two people from the South Palatinate barracks were tested positive for the virus. The infected are two adult individuals. They had been tested on Saturday after arriving in Frankfurt. The result came on Sunday.
Spread over three floors
While they were brought to the Frankfurt University Hospital in a special vehicle, the other German citizens and their families are said to remain in a quarantine building in the barracks. They are distributed in groups on three separate floors to keep the risk of infection as low as possible. There they may move freely, but not leave the floor.
Regarding the current mood, District Administrator Brechtel said: “What we are prepared for has happened. There is no panic – neither with the helpers nor in the group and security is guaranteed.”
The Würzbug family is doing well
Würzburg’s Thomas Scheller, on the other hand, was doing well, as he informed on the phone on Sunday. He and his wife and three-year-old daughter visited his wife’s relatives in China when the outbreak of the Corona virus surprised the family in the Wuhan region – and all regular flights from there were suddenly canceled. The federal government had organized a return flight of Germans and their families from the quarantined region around the million-strong city of Wuhan with the Bundeswehr aircraft.
Except for a delay, the escape from the impending corona virus initially seemed to work smoothly when they were on the Bundeswehr plane on Saturday morning. With a delay of five hours the Airbus “Kurt Schumacher” took off for Germany at 2.20 a.m. Stopover to refuel should be in Moscow.
While the plane was still waiting for take-off in Wuhan, Moscow refused to make a stopover. Colonel Daniel Draken, commander of the Bundeswehr’s readiness to fly, confirmed: “Russia has approved the overflight for us, but the landing at one of the Moscow airports was denied due to insufficient capacity on the ground.”
Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) confirmed the process in a press conference in Bonn. They want to clarify together with the Federal Foreign Office what are possible reasons for Moscow’s behavior.
Hasty search for an alternative stopover
The Airbus was diverted to the Finnish capital Helsinki. A replacement crew for the Airbus was flown there in a hurry.
At 1:18 p.m. Thomas Scheller sent a soothing message to Würzburg: “Just landed in Helsinki. The machine is refueled and then it goes to Germany.” “Kurt Schumacher” landed there three hours later.
Accommodation in Germersheim
After arriving in Germany, the flown out should be examined. This is followed by a 14-day quarantine in the Bundeswehr barracks in Germersheim (Rhineland-Palatinate), 100 kilometers away.
To be on the safe side, the caretakers in the Airbus had isolated seven returnees during the flight. They had shown no symptoms when departing from China, but complained of headaches or nausea during the flight.
Although there are no concrete indications that the people are infected, the Air Force put the people in the so-called red area of the plane after departure, which is separated from the rest by a few rows of seats in order to exclude the slightest risk for the other returnees.
The return of those who returned was great. “Finally at home,” was often heard – but also the first comments from such “concerned” citizens: What would the evacuation cost them as a taxpayer? A spokesman for the Ministry of Health says: The passengers have to pay for the flight, the federal government bears the accommodation in Quran.
As a precaution, eleven passengers in the clinic
Eleven people with different health complaints came directly to the University Hospital Frankfurt, as Hesse’s Minister of Social Affairs Kai Klose (Güne) said. One had to be determined whether he was infected, the other ten had other medical reasons. The suspicion of infection was not confirmed, as Social Minister Kai Klose (Greens) said on Sunday.
Late Saturday evening, the remaining passengers were then driven to Gemersheim in Rhineland-Palatinate on three buses. There they are said to remain in quarantine for two weeks in a Bundeswehr barracks. This is how long it can take for symptoms to appear after being infected.
Two clinics in Ludwigshafen have agreed to accept patients for such contingencies. “Everything is fine with us,” said Thomas Scheller from Würzburg on Sunday. “We just had breakfast.” Thomas Scheller praises: “Everything is very well organized.” On request, he also wrote: “However, we were told that we should refrain from contacting the media.”
Spahn as a level-headed crisis manager
In Bavaria, however, another suspected case became known. Minister of Health Spahn (CDU) has earned respect for the level-headedness with which he has previously acted as a crisis manager. Already on Friday evening, in Maybrit Illner’s talk show, he had warned an excited doctor to exercise prudence. “If in two weeks I am accused of being overly cautious, I am satisfied – then everything has developed well,” Spahn emphasized on Saturday in a joint press conference with Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.