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Air India rescue flight returns home with Wuhan evacuees, 6 held back in China with coronavirus-like symptoms

Air India rescue flight returns home with Wuhan evacuees, 6 held back in China with coronavirus-like symptoms
A specially equipped Air India flight has arrived back home with 324 Indians previously stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the epicenter of a fast-moving viral outbreak – but six were barred from boarding due to high fevers.

“Indian citizens return safely to our motherland. We are extremely grateful to [the Chinese Foreign Ministry] and the local authorities in #Hubei for their help and support,” the Indian Embassy in China said in a tweet.

According to one passenger who spoke to the ANI news agency, however, six Indians meant to board the flight were prevented from doing so “as they had high temperatures” – fever is one of the symptoms of the lethal coronavirus which has killed at least 259 people and infected nearly 12,000 in China.

All 324 evacuees were brought to a special quarantine facility in Manesar near India’s capital of Delhi and are now under observation for signs of the illness, the Indian Army said. The observation period will last for two weeks, supervised by a team of doctors and other healthcare workers. The group was divided into three categories: “suspected cases,” “close contacts” and “non-contacts,” and each will be allowed to return home if no symptoms are noted.

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Pakistan, meanwhile, has signaled that it could reverse a previous decision not to evacuate its own citizens from China. Islamabad previously argued the move would only help to spread the virus further, but with the government under fire from lawmakers, leader of the house in Pakistan’s Senate, Shibli Faraz, said such evacuations could still take place.

“It is not a definite decision and if the situation changes, we will evacuate the Pakistani students on its basis,” Faraz told the upper house of parliament on Friday. He added that in the meantime, the government would attempt to keep citizens in China out of harm’s way and commended Beijing’s aggressive efforts to contain the illness.

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There are some 28,000 Pakistanis in China currently, between 8,000 and 10,000 of whom are students.

The flu-like novel coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCoV, has spread to all of China’s 31 provinces, while cases have been confirmed in at least 25 other countries.

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