The Government of India on Tuesday began preparations for evacuating Indian nationals stranded in Wuhan city, in the Hubei Province of China, the centre of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.
In a series of tweets, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We have begun the process to prepare for the evacuation of Indian nationals affected by the situation arising out of novel Coronavirus-2019 virus outbreak in Hubei Province. Our embassy in Beijing is working out the logistics and is in touch with the Chinese government and our nationals on this matter."
Over 500 Indian students are studying in colleges and universities of Wuhan city in Hubei province. However, a large number of them had departed for home just ahead of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus due to Lunar New Year celebrations.
Sources told IANS that the government was working with the Chinese authorities to make an assessment of the number of people stranded in Wuhan. Indian nationals have also been asked to submit their passport details to the embassy in Beijing, sources said.
Officials noted that those arriving will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in India.
China on Tuesday confirmed that 106 people had died because of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus and around 5,000 people were diagnosed with the viral infection. Wuhan city, with a population of 11 million, has been placed under lockdown after all transport was suspended and the movement of people outside their homes prohibited.
The National Health Commission said in its daily report that 976 patients were in critical condition, and 6,973 people were suspected of being infected with the virus as of Monday.
Almost 50,000 people were identified in close contact with the infected patients, out of which around 45,000 are under medical observation.
Meanwhile, Air India has kept a 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai, ready for evacuating Indian citizens from Wuhan city, an official source said on Tuesday.
The airline is awaiting necessary approval from the External Affairs and Health ministries to operate the special flight to evacuate the Indian citizens. The decision follows the government's instructions to various ministries to deal with the situation.
According to the source, around 250 Indians are to be evacuated.
"We are awaiting clearances from the External Affairs Ministry and also from the Health Ministry. The Health Ministry's nod is required because the operating crew has to fly to a virus outbreak territory," the source said.
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes. The outbreak in China has been caused by a novel strain of the virus.
The outbreak has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
The external affairs ministry will make a request to Chinese authorities for the evacuation of Indian nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan city.
Ministries of civil aviation and health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities respectively, an official statement said on Monday.
The civil aviation ministry has also been asked to issue instructions to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all direct and indirect flights from China. Besides, the ministry will facilitate in-flight announcements and distribution of health cards in all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.
In Delhi, three persons suspected to be infected with the novel Coronavirus-2019 have been admitted at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital, an official confirmed on Tuesday.
Speaking to IANS, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the RML hospital said, "The three persons, all residents of the national capital, were admitted on Monday afternoon. They had travelled to China."
The PRO said that two of them showed symptoms, but all three of them were placed under isolation. "Tests have been conducted through the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Reports were expected in four to five days," officials said.
With PTI and IANS inputs