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323 Indians, 7 Maldivians evacuated from coronavirus-hit Wuhan

By K J M Varma
Last updated on: February 02, 2020 16:57 IST
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A second Air India flight carrying 323 Indians and seven Maldivians from Wuhan in China landed at Delhi airport on Sunday morning.

IMAGE: Medics screen Indian nationals after they were brought by an Air India aircraft from China's coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan, at the airport in New Delhi on February 2, 2020. Photograph: / Rediff.com

In the first flight on early Saturday, 324 Indians were evacuated and were admitted to the two quarantine facilities set up by the Army and the ITBP, though none of them have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to officials.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet on Sunday, "7 Maldivians brought back with 323 Indians from Wuhan on the second @airindiain flight today. #NeighbourhoodFirst at work again."

 

Wuhan is the epicentre of outbreak of novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 300 people in China.

Two Indians, both from Kerala, have been tested positive for novel coronavirus.

Due to the outbreak, IndiGo has suspended all three flights between India and China. Air India has suspended its Delhi-Shanghai flight and curtailed the flight operations on the Delhi-Hong Kong route.

WATCH: AI's 2nd flight lands in Delhi with 323 Indians, 7 Maldivians

An Air India spokesperson said at 9.45 am, "323 passengers and seven Maldivians were there in the second special flight from Wuhan, which landed at Delhi airport just now."

Five doctors from the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, who were onboard the first flight, were also present in the second flight, the spokesperson said.

Out of the 324 people that have been evacuated through first Air India flight, 56, 53 and 42 are from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively.

IMAGE: Indian nationals at the airport in New Delhi. Photograph: ANI

Four Indians could not board the second flight after they reported high temperatures, Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri said.

They may be quarantined to undergo tests to determine whether they have symptoms of the coronavirus, officials said.

Twenty-five others stayed back, Misri said, adding that there may still be about 100 Indians who remained in Hubei province for which Wuhan is the provincial capital - the city where the virus first emerged in late December.

Ahead of the evacuation, the Indian Embassy had informed its stranded citizens that they have to undergo health tests before boarding the flight and also undergo a 14-day quarantine in special camps after reaching India.

Misri said that it was one of the most complex operations for the Indian officials as the entire evacuation process had to be conducted in Wuhan and Hubei province, which were under total lock down with all transportation including private vehicles banned as part of measures to curb the virus.

IMAGE: Maldivian nationals who were brought along with Indians by an Air India aircraft from Wuhant. Photograph: ANI

The entire operation needed to be conducted about 500-km away, he said.

Indian diplomats Deepak Padmakumar and M Balakrishnan were on the ground to coordinate evacuation operations with the Chinese, he said.

Besides the complicated process of identifying the stranded Indians and their addresses in the sprawling city and the province, the Indian Embassy in coordination with the Chinese officials arranged buses to pick them up from different destinations to drive them to airport.

The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar near Delhi to keep those evacuated from China's virus-hit province. They would be monitored for any signs of infection for two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members.

IMAGE: Four Indians could not board the second flight after they reported high temperatures, Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri said. Photograph: ANI

The evacuation of seven stranded Maldivian citizens along with Indians signifies the importance India attaches to its relations with the countries in the immediate neighbourhood, officials said.

Air India has done such evacuations earlier also from countries such as Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Nepal.

While India, the United States, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and many countries evacuated their nationals from Wuhan, the Pakistani government -- despite strong criticism from the opposition -- has declined pleas by several hundred Pakistani students in Wuhan to airlift them.

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