Coronavirus outbreak in China: Air India B747 flight to evacuate 600 Indian nationals in Wuhan on Friday

FE Online
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Amidst the novel Coronavirus havoc that has claimed several lives in China, the Indian government is taking robust steps towards rescuing Indians in Wuhan city in the Hubei province. National carrier Air India on Friday, January 31, will fly its jumbo B747 plane to Wuhan to evacuate Indian nationals staying in the neighbouring country as it has been with the deadly coronavirus for months now. The Health Ministry will send five doctors from India in the B747 flight who will travel all the way to China, according to Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, Ashwani Lohani.

There will also be one paramedical staff onboard the flight. The national carrier CMD said that the B747 aircraft will halt at Wuhan airport for 2-3 hours. The food for the passengers will not be served to them through cabin crew like it usually happens in flights. However, the food items will be kept in seat pockets for the passengers. This is being done to avoid interaction between the passengers and the cabin crew to avoid any spread of the virus. Masks have also been arranged for crew and passengers, said Lohani. The crew will also be provided full protection gear.

The 423-seater flight will depart from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport at 12:30 PM on Friday. The aircraft flew in from Mumbai to Delhi airport early on Friday morning. A senior official, as quoted by PTI, said, "The B747 plane is all set to depart from Delhi at 12.30 PM. It came from Mumbai on Friday morning only."

More than 600 Indian citizens are living in China’s Hubei province, which is the epicentre of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak. The government has reached out to all Indians living in Hubei to ascertain their willingness to be evacuated from China and brought back to India.

The evacuation comes just a day after India reported its first confirmed coronavirus case in Kerala. The victim of the virus is a student who belongs to the southern state and was studying in China’s Wuhan city, the hotbed of the virus. The patient has been kept in an isolation ward in Kerala while the number of people under observation in the state rose to 1,053 on Thursday.

About 213 people have already lost their lives in China’s coronavirus outbreak, while confirmed cases have totalled to 9,692. The Hubei province in China has itself reported 5,806 confirmed cases, including 204 deaths.