Govt. alert for coronavirus spread from Nepal

In this handout photo provided by Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Air India aircraft that brought back Indians from Wuhan stands after arrival at the airport in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: AP

Indian students from Wuhan, who had been evacuated over the weekend by two special Air India flights following the coronavirus outbreak, are being screened in the quarantine facility in Manesar to ensure they have not been infected by the virus, an official said on Saturday. 

Another official said the Air India flight that left for Wuhan on Saturday carried ‘ancillary’ medical equipment to be handed over to the Chinese authorities but it did not include face masks. “Unlike the Japanese and some other governments which sent face masks, we could not do so as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the disease in India,” the official said.

The Indian health authorities are especially concerned about the possible spread of the respiratory disease from Nepal, where an outbreak has been reported. “The anxiety is that if the virus spreads to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from Nepal, it would be hard to contain because of the high population density there,” the official said.

Massive numbers

Planning for various contingencies, the Indian authorities are also considering alternatives to air evacuation, should a need arise for a mass exit from China. “There are limits to air evacuation, especially as this can be done only by experienced pilots. Besides, the turnaround time for aircraft coming from a highly infected area is long because planes have to be sanitised and monitoring the crew’s health will be of top priority,” officials said. 

Evacuation by ship remains a possible option in view of the size of the population residing in China. “Roughly there are around 40,000 Indians in mainland China, half of whom are students. Besides there are around 20,000 Indian passport holders and people of Indian origin in Hong Kong, many of whom may need to leave,” the source said.

Within China, the National Health Commission on Saturday confirmed 14,380 cases of the virus. So far 304 people had died but 328 patients have recovered. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is sending 1,400 medical workers to the newly built Huoshenshan hospital — a 1,000-bed facility in Wuhan built in a record eight days. Another hospital in the area which can accommodate another 1,600 patients is expected to be operational on February 6.

The U.S., the European Union, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore have banned or restricted entry of Chinese nationals and any foreigners who have recently visited China to arrest the spread of the disease. 

The article has been updated for clarity.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 6:15:23 PM |

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