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Coronavirus: IndiGo, Air India suspend flights to China

Last updated on: January 29, 2020 21:54 IST

The only two Indian carriers that fly to China -- IndiGo and Air India-- on Wednesday announced suspension of most of their flights to that country, while India has requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from Hubei province which has been sealed after the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

IMAGE: Health workers in protective suits check the condition of a passenger on an airplane that just landed from Changsha, a city in a province neighboring the center of coronavirus outbreak Hubei province, in Shanghai, China, January 25, 2020. Photograph: David Stanway/Reuters

A fresh travel advisory asking people to refrain from travelling to China has been issued by the Union government which has ramped up screening across airports, ports and borders, as the virus spread to at least 17 countries.

No case of the novel coronavirus has been detected in India, though hundreds of people remain under observation in many states including as many as 806 in Kerala, according to officials.

With several airlines based in Asia, North America and Europe restricting operations to the region, the Indian carriers too followed suit.


The country's largest airline IndiGo said it has suspended its flights on Bengaluru-Hong Kong route from February 1 and on the Delhi-Chengdu route from February 1 to 20.

Similarly, state-run Air India is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route from January 31 to February 14 and reducing the frequency on Delhi-Hong Kong route to thrice-weekly only in the same time period.

IndiGo will, for now, continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight which it is "monitoring on a daily basis".

The crew of the two airlines working on flights connecting India with South East Asian countries have been asked to wear N95 masks on ground and take other precautions like not visiting public places.

British Airways, Indonesia's Lion Air Group, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines and Air Canada are among the carriers that have reportedly suspended or restricted flights to China, with many citing reduction in demand due to coronavirus outbreak.

The disease which emerged in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei Province, has spread to at least 17 countries, with the United Arab Emirates announcing on Wednesday its first case of the new coronavirus in a family from Wuhan.

The death toll from the disease in China has mounted to 132 with about 6,000 confirmed infections.

India has requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from Hubei Province, the ministry of external affairs said Wednesday.

The Indian embassy in Beijing on Wednesday circulated registration forms and consent notes for the Indians in Hubei province to be filled by them.

It has appealed to Indian citizens in Hubei who have not yet contacted the mission to do so on the given hotlines or dedicated email ID.

Air India has kept a 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai to airlift Indian citizens from Hubei.

In Kerala, out of 806 people under observation, 10 are in isolation wards in hospitals, while the rest are in home quarantine.

Twenty seven people are under observation, including 10 at hospitals in Mumbai, Pune and Nanded.

In Madhya Padesh, 50-year-old woman and her 20-year-old son who were admitted in a hospital in Ujjain for possible exposure to novel Coronavirus tested negative for the deadly pathogen.

A man, who was found with symptoms of coronavirus in Jaipur, also tested negative and 18 other who were under observation in Rajasthan were also in good health, officials said.

The Union health ministry has also asked people to use 24x7 helpline (011-23978046) for queries related to respiratory infection.

"In the view of the spurt of cases being reported in China and travel related cases appearing in many countries....all non-essential travel to China to be avoided," it said.

As part of the preparedness, India has also increased the number of airports from seven to 21 where thermal screening of passengers is being done for a possible exposure to the deadly nCoV.

These include airports at Gaya, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam, Varanasi, Goa, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow besides the seven designated airports identified earlier.

The health ministry also has established four more laboratories apart from the NIV-Pune for testing samples. These labs have been made functional at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Special Secretary in the Union health ministry Sanjeeva Kumar held a meeting health secretaries of states where the 21 identified airports are located along with the Airport Health Organization Officers (APHOs) to review their preparedness for prevention and management of novel coronavirus.

During the video-conefernce, he also interacted with health secretaries of the states, including those bordering Nepal (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim), an official statement said.

The immigration and other staff members at the airports have been sensitized and dedicated ambulances are placed at the airports. Deployment of medical and para-medical staff is also being done for round-the-clock service, it said.

Meanwhile, India is placed at the 23rd place among "high-risk" countries where the disease can spread, according to a study based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive in the countries from the worst affected cities in China.

Researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK compiled a list of cities and countries they believe are at high risk from the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

The most "at risk" countries or regions worldwide are Thailand (1), Japan (2), and Hong Kong (3). The US is 6th on the list, Australia 10th and the UK 17th.

Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold to acute respiratory syndromes.

The virus, which has killed 132 people and affected at least 6,000 others in China, is a novel strain not seen before.

The AYUSH ministry has also issued an advisory recommending that homeopathic and unani medicine could be effective in the prevention of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection.

It also mentioned some Ayurvedic practices which can help recess the symptoms of respiratory tract in possible coronavirus infected cases.

"The ministry of AYUSH is issuing the advisory as preventive measure and not claiming to be a treatment advice for the nCoV infection. The Research Councils under Ministry of AYUSH are involved in various public health activities and provide lifestyle advocacies time to time for the general public," the ministry said in a statement.

Will provide necessary assistance for evacuation of foreign nationals from Wuhan: China

As India prepares to airlift its citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, China said on Wednesday that it would make all appropriate arrangements and provide necessary assistance if any country 'insists' on evacuating its nationals.

Besides India, several other countries including the US, France, Japan, South Korea, are making arrangements to airlift their nationals from central Hubei province and its capital city Wuhan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry which is coordinating the evacuation of the foreign nationals told PTI in Beijing on Wednesday that China would make appropriate arrangements if any country 'insists' on evacuating its nationals.

"China attaches great importance to protecting the lives and health of citizens of all countries in Wuhan, Hubei province, and will continue to take active and effective measures to address their legitimate concerns and demands in a timely manner," the foreign ministry said in response to a question.

"If a country insists on evacuating its citizens in Wuhan, China will make appropriate arrangements and provide necessary assistance and convenience in accordance with international practice and China's relevant provisions on epidemic prevention," the ministry said.

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