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28 Jan, 2020 04:36

India mulls sending special flight to bring back Indians stranded in China’s Wuhan as coronavirus death toll soars – report

India mulls sending special flight to bring back Indians stranded in China’s Wuhan as coronavirus death toll soars – report

An Air India plane has been on stand-by, waiting for the green light from Beijing and New Delhi to evacuate dozens of Indians from Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll climbs to over 100.

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China surpassing 4,500, the majority of them in the Hubei province, concerns about the well-being of foreign nationals stranded in Wuhan, the city at the heart of the deadly outbreak, have been mounting.

India, along with the US, Japan, and several other countries, have been taking pains to transport their citizens back home – a task which is far from easy, given that Wuhan, together with over a dozen Chinese cities, has been put on lockdown by the Chinese authorities in a bid to curb the outbreak.

In a statement on Monday, New Delhi indicated that preparations for the imminent evacuation of Indian nationals from Wuhan were in motion.

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 “It was decided that steps may be taken to prepare for the possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. Accordingly, the ministry of external affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities.”

The special-purpose flight is set to be operated by Air India. It was initially reported that a Boeing 747 was to take off from Mumbai on Monday afternoon.

“We are in a state of preparedness. Our crew, medical teams, and supplies are ready for the flight. But Wuhan is in a state of lockdown and services there are hit,” the airline said.

“The 423-seater double-decker jumbo aircraft will bring back, among others, students stranded in Wuhan,” the company’s spokesperson said at the time, referring to an estimated 250 Indians (the majority of them medical students) that are now stuck in the city.

However, the flight apparently has so far failed to receive the nod from Beijing, which reported on Tuesday morning that the number of known coronavirus cases nationwide has increased from 2,887 to at least 4,515 in a single day – a spike of more than 50 percent. The death toll, meanwhile, reached double digits, rising to 106 people from 82.

The Indian civil aviation authorities have reportedly not moved forward with the request to the Chinese authorities yet, according to an airline official cited by the Hindu, who said that New Delhi has yet to work out guidelines for the crew’s safety.

Also on rt.com China’s PM calls for ‘resolute fight’ against coronavirus outbreak as death toll climbs to 106 with over 1,700 new cases

The US State Department said that it would be sending a charter plane to Wuhan on Wednesday to extract US consulate officials as well as those Americans who are at “greater risk” of being infected.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that a charter plane to bring back Japanese citizens will depart on Tuesday night, noting that about 710 Japanese nationals are believed to be in Hubei. Toshimitsu said that a doctor, two nurses, and a quarantine officer will carry out check-ups mid-flight to determine whether the evacuees contracted the potentially deadly disease. Upon arrival, the passengers will be instructed to report their health condition to the authorities for the next two weeks.

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