Wuhan: India, China discuss plans to evacuate Indians

India, China discuss plans to evacuate Indians from coronavirus-hit Wuhan

Wuhan and 12 other cities have been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading. (AFP Photo)

Indian and Chinese officials on Monday discussed plans to evacuate over 250 Indians from coronavirus-hit Wuhan city and Hubei province.

The death toll in the coronavirus has climbed to 106 in China with 2,744 confirmed cases, mostly in Wuhan and other Chinese cities.

According to the Indian Embassy here, its diplomats held a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China on Monday.

"In the meeting, Chinese authorities briefed on the steps taken by them to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Various options for evacuating foreign nationals from Wuhan/Hubei province were also discussed," the embassy said in a note circulated on social media.

"We continue to engage with the Chinese authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian nationals in Hubei province. We will update you when we have more information from the Chinese authorities," it said.

The embassy said for any issues regarding food, water and other essential supplies, the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office has provided two helplines (027-87122256 and 87811173) on which the provincial authorities can be contacted round the clock.

"You may approach them on issues that you may face there. However, please also let us know about your concern with specific details so that we are also able to take it up with the authorities in Hubei," it said.

Wuhan has about 700 Indian students, majority of them studying medicine. There are also a number of Indian students pursuing their doctorate degrees from several universities in Wuhan and its surrounding areas.

While majority of the students have apparently left Wuhan the city a few weeks ago to avail the Chinese New Year holidays, over 250 to 300 Indian students are reportedly stuck in the city, triggering concerns over their well-being.

Wuhan and 12 other cities have been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading.

While India has earlier issued travel advisories to its citizens travelling to China in view of the coronavirus, the Indian Embassy here in the last few days has set up two hotlines for the students in Wuhan to extend assistance and took up it up with the local officials about proper supply of food and other necessities for them.

The embassy also tweeted on Monday that in addition to the three hotlines (+8618610952903, +8618612083629, +8618612083617), it has also opened a dedicated email ID, helpdesk.beijing@mea.gov.in, to deal with the ongoing emergency.

The embassy also requested some of the stranded Indians to furnish the details of their passports.

A decision about their evacuation is expected to be made shortly, though officials have not mentioned any timeline.

Over 2,000 Pakistani students too made a request to their government for their evacuation. They made a special video and circulated on media networks, appealing for help. Students from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and several African countries have also been making representations for evacuation.

Expectations for early evacuation increased after Chinese government permitted the US to airlift its Wuhan-based diplomats and Americans citizens. France, UK and South Korea are also trying to airlift their citizens stuck in Wuhan.

No foreigner in China has been infected with the virus so far.