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Air India jumbo plane to fly to Wuhan today for evacuation of Indians amid Coronavirus outbreak

At least 400 Indians will be evacuated from the Chinese city which is at the epicentre of the deadly novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has so far killed 213, with nearly 10,000 infected.

SNS | New Delhi |

A special Air India flight will depart for Wuhan from Delhi on Friday to evacuate at least 400 Indians from the Chinese city which is at the epicentre of the deadly novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has so far killed 213, with nearly 10,000 infected.

Air India’s jumbo double-decker Boeing-747 aircraft will start from Mumbai and make a brief halt in Delhi, from where the Chinese city is six hours away by flight.

Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani in a tweet said that the national carrier Air India is on a rescue mission to evacuate Indians from Wuhan. He said that a Jumbo 747 will carry out the evacuation process.

Speaking to news agency ANI, Lohani said the flight will depart at 12 pm today and will return by 2 am tomorrow.

Further arrangements will be done by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Health Ministry for the passengers after they reach India.

According to reports, the crew, which will include at least two doctors, have been instructed to only allow non-infected people into the aircraft.

Equipped with masks, gloves and medicines, they will refrain from de-boarding the aircraft and only maintain minimal contact with passengers to prevent the risk of infection. Food packets and water will be kept on each seat, an NDTV report said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar earlier told reporters that the government has established contact with 600 of the estimated 1,200 Indians residing in Hubei province.

“We are individually ascertaining their willingness to travel back to India. Our mission is working round the clock to work out the necessary logistics. We are also making arrangements for people to travel to the airport,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.

India earlier requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from worst-affected central Hubei province. Wuhan is the provincial capital of Hubei.

In a big relief for Indians – mostly students and professionals – stranded in Wuhan, the Indian Embassy in a note circulated through social media on Thursday said that preparations are on to evacuate them from the virus-hit region.

“We are preparing for air evacuation from Wuhan tomorrow in the evening. This flight will carry those Indian nationals who are in and around Wuhan and have conveyed consent for their evacuation,” the note said.

“There will be another flight subsequently which will carry those who are from other parts of Hubei province,” it added.

The Indian government and the Indian Embassy here have been collecting requisite details of the stranded Indians and held talks with the Chinese Foreign Ministry to work out the modalities for their evacuation

The exact number of Indians stranded in Hubei has not yet been revealed.

The embassy has already informed the stranded Indians that upon their arrival in India they need to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a designated city, the name of it which has not yet been revealed.

The quarantine was necessary as experts say the incubation period of the new virus was on average three to seven days, with the longest being 14 days.

The Indian embassy has opened three hotlines to help the Indians in Wuhan to cope up with the crisis.

Besides India, several other countries including the US, France, Japan, South Korea, are airlifting their nationals from Wuhan.

A large number of people from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh from the neighbourhood besides African countries were also reportedly stranded in Hubei province.

Meanwhile, India on Thursday reported its first confirmed case of the deadly virus from the southern state of Kerala.

A student, who was studying at Wuhan University in China and recently returned to his home state, has been confirmed of being infected with the virus. As per reports, the patient is stable and is being closely monitored.

In a fresh travel advisory in the backdrop of outbreak of novel Coronavirus in Wuhan province of China, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has asked people to refrain from travelling to China.

The ministry also informed that the list of airports for screening passengers for symptoms of 2019-nCoV has been increased from seven to 21. This includes airports of Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Cochin, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Guwahati, Gaya, Bagdogra, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Trivandrum, Trichy, Varanasi, Vizag, Bhubaneswar and Goa.

Indian passenger carriers Air India and IndiGo on Wednesday said that they will suspend some flight services to mainland China and Hong Kong owing to the outbreak of Coronavirus.

Accordingly, IndiGo will suspend two of its flight services to China, including Hong Kong, from February 1.

Air India has cancelled its flight to Shanghai from January 31 to February 14.

The new virus, which is of the same genre as SARS of 2003, was first reported in WHO Disease outbreak news on January 5 in China’s Wuhan. Till now, it has progressively spread across many countries.

However, the new virus has spread at a much faster pace than the 2003 SARS epidemic.

The Coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.