India to airlift more of its citizens from Wuhan as COVID-19 continues to spread

Last Updated : 17 February 2020, 15:32 IST

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As India is set to carry out yet another evacuation exercise this week to bring back home its nationals from Hubei in China, it also offered to airlift citizens of all its neighbouring countries from the epicenter of Covid-19 outbreak.

The Government earlier airlifted 645 Indian and seven Maldivian citizens from Hubei province of China as a B-747 aircraft of Air India made two sorties between Wuhan and New Delhi on January 31 and February 1 last. New Delhi is now set to bring back home some of the remaining citizens.

New Delhi will send an aircraft to Wuhan later this week with medical supplies to help Chinese Government contain the outbreak, which infected 51857 people around the world and caused 1666 deaths in China and three more elsewhere by Sunday.

“GoI (Government of India) will send a consignment of medical supplies on a relief flight to Wuhan later this week to support China to fight the COVID-19 epidemic. On its return, the flight will have limited capacity to take on board Indians wishing to return to India from Wuhan / Hubei,” Embassy of India in Beijing posted on Twitter.

“Many Indian nationals currently in Wuhan / Hubei Province and wishing to return to India have already been in touch with @EOIBeijing (Embassy of India in Beijing) in the past two weeks,” the Embassy of India tweeted, adding: “We urge all Indian nationals from Wuhan/Hubei who intend to avail this flight and have not yet contacted us, to urgently call our hotlines”.

At least 10 citizens of India could not board the aircraft to return home on January 31 and February 1, as they were found to have high body temperatures during screening by Chinese Government's immigration officials at the airport at Wuhan.

Several other Indian citizens had chosen to stay back, but some of them had later conveyed that they would also now like to come back home.

Ashish Yadav, an associate professor at the Wuhan Textile University, could not make it to the Air India aircraft on January 31 and February 1, as his wife Neha, who herself is a PhD scholar, had to undergo a surgery. The couple recently posted on social media a video, appealing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get them evacuated as they had been left with food only for a few days.

Some Indian citizens living in and around the Ground Zero of the Covid-19 outbreak could not be evacuated earlier, because the Embassy of India in Beijing could not be contacted.

“Subject to capacity limitations and space availability on the incoming aircraft, #India is also willing to facilitate nationals from all our neighbours boarding it on its return journey to #NewDelhi | Those interested are requested to contact @EOIBeijing,” Misri posted on Twitter.

Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), had on February 6 told journalists in New Delhi that India could consider evacuating Pakistani students from Wuhan and other places of Hubei in China “if such a situation arises” and resources were available. He, however, added that Pakistan Government had made no request for it till now.

Published 17 February 2020, 15:21 IST

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