An Air India plane will leave for Beijing from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in China amid the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, PTI reported. “The B747 plane is all set to depart from Delhi at 12.30 pm,” a senior airline official said. “It came from Mumbai on Friday morning itself.” The aircraft can accommodate 423 passengers.
“The national carrier once again comes to the rescue – this time to evacuate Indians from Wuhan, the site of the outbreak of coronavirus,” Air India Chairperson Ashwani Lohani tweeted. “This mission begins today with a Jumbo 747 operating between Delhi and Wuhan.”
Lohani told ANI that at least 400 Indians will be evacuated on Friday. “Further arrangements will be done by Ministry of External Affairs and Health Ministry for passengers after they reach India,” he said.
Lohani said that no service will take place on the aircraft, and there will be no interaction between the crew and the passengers, PTI reported. He said food will be kept in sealed packets. “Masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers,” he said. “For our crew, we have also arranged complete protective gear.”
The Air India chief said five doctors from the Union Ministry of Health will also be on board the flight. After landing in Beijing, the flight will go to Wuhan airport, where it will remain for two to three hours.
The Indian embassy in Beijing had on Thursday alerted Indian citizens in Wuhan, the city where the epidemic began, of a possible evacuation plan on Friday evening. However, the embassy added that the details were tentative. The embassy had drawn up a list of 374 students, till 11 pm on Thursday, who will board the first flight on Friday.
At least 213 people have died of the virus in China so far, of which 204 have died in Hubei province itself. Nearly 10,000 people have been infected and 1,02,000 kept under observation. The virus has spread to 19 countries, including India, which reported its first case on Thursday. The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the epidemic a global emergency.
Condition of patient is stable, says Kerala health minister
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja said on Friday that the condition of the coronavirus patient, a woman from Thrissur city, is stable, the Hindustan Times reported. Shailaja said her ministry has constituted a medical board to review her case.
“The condition of the student is stable,” Shailaja said. “She is responding well to symptomatic treatment. We have constituted a medical board and bulletin will be issued every evening.” The minister asked people to cooperate with the government and not spread or believe any rumours. She also sought the help of private hospitals and doctors.
Shailaja said 1,056 people are under observation in Kerala and 15 have been placed in isolation wards so far. Many people who came in direct contact with the first patient have been put under observation. Three samples, two of which are of people who travelled with the patient when she returned home from China last week, have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, Shailaja said.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also agreed to set up an isolation ward in Alappuzha.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday hoped that people in China have the courage to persevere through the ordeal. “In China, the coronavirus has killed hundreds of people,” Gandhi tweeted. “My thoughts are with the families of the victims and the millions who have been forced into quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus. May they find the courage and strength to persevere through this terrible ordeal.”
China to send charter flights for citizens abroad
China on Friday announced that it will send charter flights to bring back its citizens who live in coronavirus-hit Hubei province, especially Wuhan, who are currently overseas, PTI reported quoting China Daily. Chinese government officials had earlier announced that five million people left Hubei province before it was officially shut down on January 23. These individuals travelled within China and abroad to for week-long holidays of the Chinese New Year and the ongoing Spring Festival.
US asks citizens not to travel to China
Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday told its citizens not to travel to China, raising its advisory status to the highest level of alert, AFP reported on Friday. The State Department issued a level four warning. Earlier, it had only asked Americans to “reconsider” going to China. The department added that any Americans still in China should consider travelling home by commercial aircraft.
“The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Hubei province,” the advisory said.
The State Department also warned US travellers they should “be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.” “In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air, road, and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and placed restrictions on travel and other activities throughout the country,” it said.
Russia had on Thursday closed its border with China. Israel has barred all flights from the country. Thousands of foreigners remain trapped in China, especially in Hubei province, ever since the epidemic broke out last week.
Six thousand tourists stranded on cruise ship in Italy
The AFP news agency also reported that over 6,000 tourists were stranded on a cruise ship in Italy, after the liner was put into a lockdown on Thursday due to two suspected cases of the coronavirus. However, on Friday, Italian authorities let the tourists disembark after the two people tested negative for the virus.
Samples from a Chinese couple were sent for testing, after three doctors and a nurse boarded the Costa Crociere ship in the port of Civitavecchia to treat a woman who had fever, local health officials said. The couple flew in to Milan from Hong Kong on January 25, before getting on the cruise, Italian media reported.