2019-nCoV: China not keen to let India airlift citizens

Coronavirus outbreak: India ready to evacuate its citizens, China reluctant

Sun Weidong, China's ambassador to India. (Twitter Image/@China_Amb_India)

Even as New Delhi is prepared to send a special aircraft to bring back home nearly 250 Indian citizens from the epicentre of a coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China, the government of the communist country is apparently not keen to facilitate evacuation of foreign nationals from its territory.

“The WHO [World Health Organization] does not recommend evacuation of nationals and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact,” Sun Weidong, China's ambassador to India, tweeted, quoting Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the apex global health body, saying in Beijing.

Sun posted on Twitter hours after Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), confirmed that India had started preparation for evacuating its citizens from Hubei province of China in view of the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

Beijing's envoy to New Delhi re-tweeted a report by his country's state-owned news agency Xinhua on the visit of the WHO Director-General to China. Xinhua quoted Dr Adhanom saying that the WHO was confident in epidemic prevention and control ability of China.

The WHO chief had meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in Beijing and reviewed the situation in the wake of the outbreak, which so far resulted in the death of 106 persons. While 4515 persons have been confirmed as infected by the new coronavirus, at least 44132 people are under medical watch across China.

Thirty seven people in 11 other countries have been confirmed to have been infected by the new virus.

With about 250 Indian citizens – students and professionals – stranded at the epicentre of the outbreak in Hubei province of China; New Delhi on Monday formally requested Beijing for facilitating their evacuation. The Ministry of Civil Aviation also kept a Boeing 747 on stand-by in Mumbai so that it could fly to bring back the citizens of India after securing the clearance from the Chinese Government.

“We have begun the process to prepare for evacuation of Indian nationals affected by the situation arising out of nCorona-2019 virus outbreak in Hubei Province, China.” Kumar, spokesperson of the MEA, posted on Twitter. “Our @EOIBeijing (Embassy of India in Beijing) is working out the logistics & (and) is in touch with the Chinese Govt. (government) authorities & (and) our nationals on this matter. We will continue to share updates.”

New Delhi, however, did not get a positive response from Beijing till Tuesday evening.

The Chinese Government is apparently reluctant to let foreign nations evacuate their citizens from its territory as such actions may portray it in poor light and cast doubt on its claim that it had the ability to deal with the situation.

“The epidemic is a devil. We will not let it hide. China has the full confidence and capability to win the battle against the virus with concerted efforts, scientific containment and targeted policies under the strong leadership of the CPC (Communist Party of China),” Xinhua quoted Chinese President saying after meeting with WHO chief.

Not only India, US and France are also planning to evacuate their citizens from affected areas of China by chartered aircraft.

“We are in touch with Chinese Government to work out the logistics arrangements (for evacuation),” a source in New Delhi told the DH late on Tuesday.

The officials of the Embassy of India in Beijing, however, are in touch with Indian citizens in Wuhan and other areas in Hubei province of China.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare however made arrangements to quarantine nearly 250 Indian citizens, who could be evacuated from China. They would be kept in isolation for 14 days after their arrival in India and observed to check if they had been infected by the virus.

At least three residents of National Capital Region suspected of being infected by the 2019-nCoV have been admitted at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi and placed under observation in an isolated ward. They all had recently returned from China.

The Government extended screening of passengers with history of travel to China to 13 more airports across India, taking the total number to 20. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare would procure more thermal scanners to screen the passengers fast while four more labs, in addition to the one at the National Institute of Virology at Pune in Maharashtra, had been prepared for testing clinical samples for traces of the virus. The Ministry of Shipping too initiated screening at all major ports. Altogether 33552 passengers arriving in India ,in 155 flights with history of travel to China were screened. The samples of 20 passengers were so far been tested by NIV Pune and all were found negative or not infected by the virus, official sources said.