Air India geared for evacuation of Indians from coronavirus-hit China


NEW DELHI: An Air India Boeing 747 has been kept on standby for the evacuation of Indian citizens from Wuhan city of China, the epicentre of novel coronavirus outbreak, Times of India quoted an official of the national carrier.


The aircraft is waiting for the Centre's decision regarding the evacuation. The move comes in the wake of concern being raised in several states over the safety of their natives in Wuhan and other affected cities in China.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday had urged the central government to take steps to evacuate Keralites trapped in Wuhan and other cities in China. He said in a statement that state chief secretary Tome Jose was keeping in touch with union external affairs minister.

Several countries have already started evacuating their national from the affected areas. U.S., France, and Japan were said to be arranging to evacuate their consulate staff from China, the Associated Press reported.

More than 2,700 people in China are now said to have been infected by the fast-spreading virus, which has already taken a toll of 80 people.

On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the epicenter of the outbreak — the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, where the deadly pneumonia-like virus was first identified last month. Li was there to inspect prevention and control efforts, the government said.

Wuhan’s mayor said on Sunday that there could be about 1,000 more confirmed cases of the virus in the city. About 5 million people left Wuhan before travel was restricted, and nine million people are currently living there. Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities are currently in lockdown to restrict the virus’ spread.

The World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is traveling to Beijing to meet with government and health officials. According to the organization, more data needs to be collected before the virus, which can spread through human-to-human contact, is declared a global health emergency, according to a CNBC report.

Internationally, the number of confirmed cases grew: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States on Sunday reported its fifth confirmed case in Arizona.

Singapore’s health ministry said the number of confirmed cases in the city-state rose to four while South Korea reported its third patient infected with the virus. Thailand also reported three new cases, according to the Associated Press.

Australia has confirmed four people have been infected — one in the state of Victoria and three in New South Wales. On Monday, health officials reported a fifth case that involved a 21-year-old woman who was on the last flight out of Wuhan to Sydney before China restricted travel out of the city, Reuters reported.

French authorities on Friday confirmed the first instances of the virus in Europe, with three cases in the country — two patients in Paris and one in Bordeaux, according to local media.

Nepal is said to have confirmed its first case — a Nepali student studying in China, according to Xinhua.

Cases have also been reported in Taiwan, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Prof Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College in UK, believes about 100,000 people could be infected with the new coronavirus around the world.

He said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there are only 2,000 confirmed cases so far, mostly in the city of Wuhan in China where the virus first appeared (with inputs from Guardian and CNBC)

Image Credit: DW


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