A special Air India flight brought back 119 Indians and five people from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, who were on board the coronavirus-hit quarantined cruise ship, to New Delhi on Thursday morning. The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama on February 3 with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong.
“In line with India’s neighbourhood first policy and Indo-Pacific vision, the special flight also evacuated five foreign nationals – two Sri Lankans, one Nepalese, one South African and one Peruvian,” the Ministry of External Affairs said, according to PTI. Three crew members of the ship refused to board the flight, as they wanted to stay back and finish their quarantine period.
India thanked Japanese authorities for facilitating the evacuation of people. “Air India flight has just landed in Delhi from Tokyo, carrying 119 Indians & 5 nationals from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru who were quarantined onboard the Diamond Princess due to COVID19,” Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet. “Appreciate the facilitation of Japanese authorities. Thank you Air India once again.”
There were 138 Indians on board the luxury cruise ship. Of them, 12 tested positive for coronavirus and will stay in Japan for treatment.
Meanwhile, India sent a consignment of medical relief materials to Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak via another flight. The relief materials included masks, gloves and other emergency medical equipment for Chinese healthcare professionals.
The Indian Air Force flight, which took the consignment, brought back 76 Indians and 36 people from seven countries – Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, China, South Africa, USA and Madagascar. All evacuated passengers will be quarantined for 14 days. Foreign Minister Jaishankar thanked the Chinese government, the Indian Embassy in Beijing and the IAF.
Earlier this month, India had evacuated as many as 640 people Wuhan. Coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people in 37 countries, causing more than 2,600 deaths.