India is preparing to evacuate citizens from China’s Hubei province following the coronavirus outbreak, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said yesterday.
Local media reported earlier that an Air India plane was on standby to evacuate an estimated 250 Indians from Wuhan, a city in Hubei province that is at the epicentre of the virus.
“We have begun the process to prepare for evacuation of Indian nationals affected by the situation arising out of Corona-2019 virus outbreak in Hubei Province, China,” spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.
Authorities were working out the logistics of moving people out of the city which is under a lockdown, he said. Over 500 Indian students are enrolled in colleges and universities of Wuhan.
However, a large number of them had departed for home just ahead of the outbreak of the virus.
Sources said the government was working with the Chinese authorities to make an assessment about the number of Indians stranded in Wuhan.
Indian nationals have also been asked to submit their passport details to the embassy in Beijing, sources said.
The embassy posted on social media that some Indian nationals were not in possession of their passports as they had submitted them to the Chinese authorities for visa extension or work permit or other reasons.
All the Indian nationals presently in Hubei province and not in possession of their passports, have been asked to contact the embassy with details such as name and passport number.
They have also been asked to inform the embassy about the Chinese authority to whom they have submitted their passports and the date on which the passports were submitted.
The details are to be sent to an official of the embassy at WeChat ID, sondhi_0808.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that four more laboratories for testing samples of suspected cases of the virus have been set up, besides the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
“The facilities of testing sample will be extended to ten more places very soon,” he said.
The minister said that thermal screening of passengers will be extended to 20 airports very soon.
“India is the first country in the world to have taken all precautionary measures on a war footage to keep the virus out of the country,” he said.
About the ministry’s readiness against the disease, he said: “At least 35,000 people coming to India from abroad have been thermally screened at various airports including, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai.”
“We have even tested samples of those people who had already come back from China and showed symptoms of the disease before the thermal screening started at the airports. They all have tested negative.”
However, a person of European descent, who had travelled to China, has been quarantined at a government hospital in Goa, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said yesterday.
Rane said the patient, the coastal state’s first suspected coronavirus case, landed at Goa airport via Delhi, following a visit to China.
“We are taking all precautions as per the World Health Organisation. We are also in touch with the Civil Aviation Ministry on taking precautions at all entry points,” Rane said.
An official said in Thiruvananthapuram that over 400 people in Kerala were under observation for suspected coronavirus.
Five are in hospitals, while the others are at their homes, central health official Shaukat Ali who is currently touring Kerala, said.
The leader of the central team which is currently inspecting arrangements in Kerala set up to deal with the coronavirus threat said that 436 people were under observation in the state.
“We have to get one more result of the samples that have been sent. So far all the samples have tested negative. Kerala has made all the preparations to tackle this virus,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, 16 patients in Punjab and two in Haryana have been quarantined on suspicion of having coronavirus.
However, one death in Punjab’s Amritsar district was due swine flu. A 28-year-old man from Mohali in Punjab who had recently returned from China, was admitted to hospital after he was diagnosed with symptoms of coronavirus.
The blood samples of all the patients have been sent to the NIV.
Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said 16 patients have been kept in isolation wards and are under observation.
Their samples too have been sent to the NIV.
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