India has begun the process to evacuate nationals from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province of China. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday said the government was planning to send a plane to Wuhan and a special Air India flight had got the go-ahead from aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The evacuation process will take some days, Mr. Jaishankar told reporters at Vadodara airport.
“The aircraft will fly Mumbai-Wuhan-Delhi as per requirement for passenger evacuation,” a senior DGCA official said. The 423-seater double-decker aircraft, with a 12-member crew, will fly as soon as China grants required permissions, he said.
Officials said the government was also working on the issue who will foot the tab for the evacuation.
Mr. Jaishankar, meanwhile asserted that no Indian student had been found to be affected by the virus till date.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “The Health Ministry is working to ensure that the Indians in China after their return will be kept in quarantine for two weeks even if they display no symptoms. ”
“Our Embassy in Beijing is working out the logistics and is in touch with the Chinese government authorities and our nationals on this matter,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. The Indian embassy in Beijing has established dedicated hotlines (+8618610952903, +8618612083629, +8618612083617) and email address (email@example.com).
Thermal screening of passengers for possible exposure to the deadly infection would now be extended to 20 airports from the existing seven and the government would have four more laboratories functional — in addition to the National Institute of Virology in Pune — for testing samples and it would be extended to 10 labs in the coming days, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said. “Like in 2014, because of our alertness we prevented Ebola from entering the country, we are making all efforts and taking all possible measures to ensure there are no cases of nCoV here,” Dr Vardhan said, adding that as of January 28, around 35, 000 passengers had been screened at these airports.
Vigil at border
“We have tested 20 samples for nCoV and so far they all have resulted negative. We also have stepped up vigil in areas bordering Nepal in view of a confirmed case of nCoV detected there,” the Minister said.
Dr. Vardhan stressed the need for self-reporting by people with recent travel history to China if they displayed flu symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory issues.
People can contact helpline: +91-11-23978046 for any medical advice and assistance, he added.
(With inputs from Aditya Anand in Mumbai)