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As coronavirus fear intensifies, Centre gets ready for ‘possible evacuation’ of Indians from China

Amid the rising number of coronavirus infection cases in China, the Indian government is preparing a plan for “possible evacuation” of Indian nationals living in Wuhan area of China. It is learnt that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) would make a request to the Chinese authorities to help India in evacuating Indians from Wuhan and other regions of China.

The officials from India and China met on Monday (January 27) to discuss plans to evacuate over 250 Indians from Wuhan city and Hubei province, which are worst hit by coronavirus outbreak, reported.

It is to be noted that the number of death due to the coronavirus has jumped to 82 in China with 2,744 confirmed cases, mostly in Wuhan and other Chinese cities. According to the Indian Embassy in Beijing, Indian officials held a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China on Monday. “In the meeting, Chinese authorities briefed on the steps taken by them to contain the spread of coronavirus outbreak. Various options for evacuating foreign nationals from Wuhan/Hubei province were also discussed,” the embassy said in a note.

“We continue to engage with the Chinese authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian nationals in Hubei province. We will update you when we have more information from the Chinese authorities,” it said.

The embassy also said for any issues regarding food, water and other essential supplies, the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office has provided two helplines (027-87122256 and 87811173) and these numbers are in operation round the clock. “You may approach them on issues that you may face there. However, please also let us know about your concern with specific details so that we are also able to take it up with the authorities in Hubei,” it said.

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, according to the official of the national carrier.

The aircraft is waiting for the Centre`s decision regarding the evacuation.”Air India Boeing 747 is on standby for the evacuation of Indians from Wuhan (China) due to scare of Coronavirus. Carrier is waiting for the government the decision,” an Air Indian official told  on Monday.

Notably, the MEA had said on Sunday (January 26) that no Indian in China has been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus so far. The MEA added that the Indian embassy in Beijing is in touch with Indian students studying in Wuhan and Hubei and other Indians living in different parts of China.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted on Sunday that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is closely monitoring the situation. “We are also closely coordinating with Chinese authorities. As of now, we understand that no Indian citizens have been affected by the outbreak and that food and water supplies are available to them,” Kumar had tweeted.

He added that three helplines have been made operational at Indian embassy in Beijing to address the concerns of Indians without any delay. “Our embassy in Beijing is in close touch with Indian citizens including students to extend assistance, including on possible travel options out of Hubei province,” the MEA spokesperson said in another tweet.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary on Monday (January 27) held a meeting to review the situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The meeting was attended by Secretaries in the Ministries of Health, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Labour, Defence, I&B and Member-Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority and DG(Armed Forces Medical Services).

Notably, India has so far screened 137 flights and 29707 passengers to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country, The samples of 12 passengers were referred to National Institute of Virology Pune and no positive case has been reported so far.

Ministry of Civil Aviation has been asked to issue an instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China. The airlines have also been directed to facilitate in-flight announcements and distribute health cards to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China. Ministry of Home Affairs has asked integrated check posts to initiate screening of visitors across Nepal border.