The Government has asked Air India to be ready to operate a special flight for bringing back vulnerable Indians, including university students from China, in the wake of rising worries over Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan province and reports of new cases of viral infection in other parts of the country.
“Only Air India has wide-body aircraft and so we can operate a special flight with a B747. We are awaiting directions from the government,” said an airline official.
However, there is growing apprehension within the airline that bringing people from the infection-hit areas of China could pose a bigger challenge in case even a single person with symptoms of infection gets onboard.
“Presence of one infected person could put 400 people’s health at risk,” the official said.
This comes as Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to arrange to airlift Indians stranded in the Wuhan province of China.
Vijayan in a letter to the Prime Minister wrote that the situation in Wuhan was “grave and it would be appropriate to operate a special flight to Wuhan or a nearby functional airport and airlift Indian nationals stranded there”.
He also urged the Prime Minister to give necessary instructions to the Indian Embassy in China to act pro-actively and provide necessary assistance and reassurance to Indians including Keralites stranded in Wuhan and Yichang.
Pinarayi Vijayan also offered assistance to medical professionals from Kerala if the Centre plans evacuation of the Indians from Wuhan.
Although more than 500 Indian students are studying in colleges and universities in Wuhan, official sources said that most of them had left the city before the outbreak for the Chinese New Year holidays.
It is learnt that the Indian Embassy in Beijing has been in touch with 45 Indian students stuck in Wuhan, but wasn’t able to determine the overall figure of Indians living in the city.
The spread of Coronavirus in China has been very rapid as the authorities have announced the death toll due to the virus to have reached 106 with 4,515 confirmed cases in 30 provincial-level regions.
976 patients are in critical conditions and a total of 6,973 people are suspected of being infected with the virus as of Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs has said that as of now no Indian in China has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the embassy in Beijing is in close touch with all Indians in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei province.
The Indian government is in touch with Chinese authorities to ensure that Indians are safe. It is learnt that India has requested China to permit Indian students stuck in Wuhan to leave.
In order to contain the Coronavirus outbreak, the local government authorities in Wuhan province had earlier suspended all public transportation, including buses, trains and flights.
As of new reports, three persons have been kept under observation at an isolation ward of RML Hospital in the national capital for possible exposure to the novel Coronavirus.
The three — all men aged between 24 and 48 — were admitted on Monday and their samples have been sent for testing. While two of the men are residents of Delhi, one hails from NCR.
A 28-year-old Mohali resident, who returned from China recently, has been admitted to the isolation ward of PGIMER here after showing novel coronavirus-like symptoms. This is the first suspected case of novel Coronavirus in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh region.
A total of six persons are under observation in Mumbai and Pune for the deadly virus. Four persons suspected with Coronavirus have been admitted to Mumbai’s Kasturba hospital while two are admitted to Pune’s Naidu hospital.
As many as 3,756 passengers arriving from China were screened for the Coronavirus at the Mumbai International Airport between January 18 and 26, but no confirmed case of the deadly disease has been found so far in Mumbai.
Four suspected cases of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been reported in Hyderabad. While two of their blood samples tested negative for the virus, the results of two others are still awaited.
In Kerala, five people have been kept under observation at isolation wards in hospitals in Trivandrum, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts while as many as 431 people are being monitored at their homes. About 60 persons in Kozhikode who have returned from China recently are being closely monitored.
Screening at the Cochin international airport has been strengthened since Sunday with the setting up a full-fledged health desk there.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to set up 10-bed isolation wards in every district hospital and medical college of the state as a precautionary measure to deal with any suspected case of the deadly virus.
Goa’s top government-run medical facility, the Goa Medical College, has set up a special corona isolation ward to treat any suspects showing symptoms of the deadly virus, even though not a single suspected case of coronavirus has been reported in the state.
Till Monday, a total of 33,552 passengers arriving in India from China in 155 flights have been screened.
In the wake of the novel Coronavirus outbreak in China with Wuhan being the epicentre of the disease, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has accelerated its efforts to prevent the disease from entering India.
Health Secretary Preeti Sudan reviewed the preparedness of the concerned ministries, departments and states regarding coronavirus.