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Coronavirus outbreak: China toll rises to 56, MEA says exploring ‘all options’ to help Indians stuck in Wuhan

At least 700 Indians study in universities in Wuhan and its surrounding areas. While most of them reportedly left China ahead of the Chinese New Year, around 250 are still stuck in Wuhan.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 26, 2020 10:38:21 pm
coronavirus, coronavirus China, coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus death toll, ministry of external affairs, indians in china, coronavirus in india, world news, indian express news People wearing protective masks walk outside Forbidden City, Beijing, on January 25.  The Forbidden City has been closed to visitors, according to a notice on its main entrance, in view of the coronavirus outbreak. (Source: Reuters)

As the new coronavirus spreads in China, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Sunday said it is in touch with the Chinese government and is exploring ‘all options’ to provide relief to Indians stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

This comes as the death toll due to the virus rose to 56 in China, with 13 other countries confirming cases.

At least 700 Indians study in universities in Wuhan and its surrounding areas. While most of them reportedly left China ahead of the Chinese New Year, around 250 are still stuck in Wuhan, and the Indian government has requested China to permit them to leave the city.

Confirmed cases of the viral infection Sunday touched 2,008, including 23 from abroad. China has sealed Wuhan and 12 other cities to stop the virus from spreading.

In a series of tweets, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is closely monitoring the situation and that no Indian citizen has been affected by the virus.

“We are also closely coordinating with Chinese authorities. As of now, we understand that no Indian citizens have been affected by the outbreak & that food & water supplies are available to them,” he said.

“Our Embassy and Consulates General in China will continue to work with Chinese authorities to try and facilitate Indian citizens caught up in these difficult circumstances,” he added.

coronavirus, coronavirus China, coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus death toll, ministry of external affairs, indians in china, coronavirus in india, world news, indian express news A thermal screening device checks passengers arriving in India from China and Hong Kong at Kolkata airport on January 21. (PTI Photo)

He also said that the Indian Embassy in Beijing is in touch with all Indian citizens to provide assistance, including on possible travel options out of Hubei Province. The Embassy has also opened three hotlines to respond to concerns of Indian citizens. These are +8618610952903, +8618612083629 and +8618612083617.

Also Read | As coronavirus spreads, here’s a guide to what you should know on the virus

Back in India, a total of 29,707 passengers from 137 flights have been screened so far for coronavirus, Union Ministry of Health said. On Saturday, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had directed that multidisciplinary central teams be sent to the seven designated airports of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Kochi.

No case of coronavirus has been detected so far in India.

Internationally, the virus has spread to Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Taiwan, Nepal, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, France and the US.

Chinese health officials say virus’ ability to spread getting stronger

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) Sunday said that the new coronavirus is contagious even in its incubation period, which lasts up to 14 days, and that the virus’ ability to spread is getting stronger, a report in South China Morning Post said.

Ma Xiaowei, NHC minister in-charge, said that the authorities’ understanding of the virus was “limited” and they were also unclear on the risks posed by possible mutations. “The outbreak is expected to continue for some time,” he was quoted as saying.

coronavirus, coronavirus China, coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus death toll, ministry of external affairs, indians in china, coronavirus in india, world news, indian express news In Hubei, the situation remains grim, despite the government sending over 1,350 medics to battle the epidemic. (Source: Reuters)

Meanwhile, Chinese scientists are ramping up efforts to develop a vaccine for the deadly virus. Xu Wenbo, a director of CDC’s virus institute, told South China Morning Post that researchers had used high-throughput genetic sequencing to identify pathogens after the first four samples were sent from Wuhan on January 2.

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In Hubei though, the situation remains grim, despite the government sending over 1,350 medics to battle the epidemic. Hubei province’s Mayor Zhou Xianwang said “it was possible to add about 1,000 cases” based on the number of patients in hospital being tested or undergoing observation in the city.

In this regard, Premier Li Keqiang will head the high-level group to fight the coronavirus epidemic as cases have started rising steadily in most Chinese provinces and cities, including Beijing.

(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)

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