While India is likely to send a military aircraft carrying relief items to Wuhan, Ground Zero of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, on February 26, amongst the group of Indians waiting to be evacuated is an Indian businessman, his Chinese wife and son. “I drove over from Shenzhen where I have an export business to visit my wife’s family in Hubei for six days but I got caught in the lockdown,” he told The Indian Express via WeChat.
“We couldn’t be evacuated in the first round since I was still waiting for my wife and son who hold OCI cards to be eligible for travel,” the businessman who did not wish to be named said.
Nearly 100 Indians are on stand-by since February 20 to be evacuated out of Hubei province though many among them are students, the third evacuation has Indians who work in the province and chose to stay back unsure when their workplaces will reopen.
“While the spring semester was postponed for students, several of us had to wait for our work units to clear us for travel. During the last evacuation, the time limit was shorter to get permission,” said an Indian national from Uttar Pradesh who works in a vaccine company.
A Union Health Ministry statement said Monday: “As informed by the Ministry of External Affairs, departure of the Air Force flight to Wuhan is being planned for February 26 and the evacuees will arrive on February 27.” Previously, Indian officials had said that China had delayed clearance of the C-17 military transport aircraft.
Meanwhile, China rescinded an announcement Monday that the quarantine of Wuhan would be eased up. Chinese state television CGTN reported that Wuhan authorities had withdrawn an announcement made earlier in the day that non-residents could leave if they show no coronavirus symptoms and have never had contact with patients. It said the city will continue in its efforts to avoid the virus spreading to other regions.
For the Indians who have spent more than a month in lockdown, apprehension over the delay in evacuation efforts prompted the Embassy of India in Beijing to ask them to refrain from disseminating speculative information. “We do realise that some of you are getting apprehensive due to the delays. However, we would urge you to remain calm and not resort to disseminating speculative information which may lead to confusion and even panic in the group,” the Embassy said in the WeChat created for this next round of evacuation.
Further, some of the Indians who spoke to The Indian Express spoke of hike in prices of food items and that some of the community gates have been locked down. This has over the weeks restricted frequent access to supermarkets. A medical student from China Three Gorges University who could not travel during the first round of evacuation since he had chicken pox said: “My college has started online courses but some of the Chinese apps may not work if you are accessing it from India…After weeks under lockdown, we want some fresh air and would like to see the outside world.”
Meanwhile, with 28 countries reporting 17 deaths and over 1750 cases of the disease (outside of China) the Centre has issued new guidelines for screening passengers from four more countries. Now along with China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, passengers who have travelled to Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia will also be screened at international airports.
At Indian Council of Medical Research, a total of 1461 samples from suspected cases across the country have been tested. This is barring those that were tested from evacuated individuals quarantined at Manesar Army Camp and ITBP Camp at New Delhi. So far there are only three confirmed cases and no new case that is positive for COVID-19.
Until today, 50,091 travelers have been screened at Mumbai International Airport. Field surveillance is also actively going on all across the state in search of people from the corona-affected areas. Until today, 84 samples sent by the state have been found negative as per the reports of National Institute of Virology, state surveillance officer Pradeep Awate said.
(with ENS, Pune)