Coronavirus: buses carrying China evacuees attacked in Ukraine

None of the evacuees had tested positive for Covid-19

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Protesters in a Ukrainian town threw stones at buses carrying evacuees from coronavirus-hit China, prompting the Ukrainian health minister to make a gesture of solidarity with the returnees.

Kiev flew 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign nationals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, to Kharkiv on Thursday.

The evacuees, none of whom have tested positive for the virus, were driven to Novi Sanzhary where they will spend the next 14 days in quarantine at a health spa.

But residents of the town blocked roads and hurled stones at the buses, breaking at least three windows on the vehicles.

The protesters were dispersed by riot police to clear the way for the buses to get through.

A fake email claiming to be from the health ministry incorrectly said that some of the evacuees had coronavirus, Ukraine’s security service said.

Authorities have since sent extra security to Novi Sanzhary to protect the evacuees in the medical centre.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the protesters in the town of 10,000 people to remember that "we are all human".

Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk said on Twitter he was "urgently" heading to the site of the protests.

Health minister Zoryana Skaletska said she would join the evacuees in quarantine for two weeks and would use Skype to run her ministry.

"These people are our compatriots," she wrote on Facebook. "We live in one country and have to take care of their health and safety."

Ukraine has no confirmed cases of Covid-19, which has killed more than 2,000 people and infected 74,000 in China and hundreds in over 25 countries.

The number of deaths outside mainland China rose to 11 on Thursday.