The Ministry of External Affairs Thursday said the government has evacuated at least 640 Indians from coronavirus-hit China and the complex operation was done with Beijing’s assistance.
MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said apart from those evacuated, 10 other Indians have indicated that they want to come back from China, but were unable to clear the health screening process. “We are in regular contact with them and exploring all possibilities for their return,” Kumar said.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, normal visas and all existing e-visas from China that have been issued are no longer valid, he said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated Thursday that in its mission to contain the further spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, the international community has launched a US$675 million preparedness and response plan which will cover a timespan of February to April. At least 563 individuals have lost their lives to the virus infection that originated in China’s Wuhan province and has infected around 28,000 people, according to the Chinese government.
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The WHO’s plan mainly focuses on three core issues: “rapidly establishing international coordination and operational support; scaling up country readiness and response operations; accelerating priority research and innovation.”
“My biggest worry is that there are countries today who do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted with the virus, even if it were to emerge,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Urgent support is needed to bolster weak health systems to detect, diagnose and care for people with the virus, to prevent further human to human transmission and protect health workers,” he added.
Reuters reported that hundreds of experts are slated to gather in Geneva next week, on February 11-12, in an attempt to find a way to fight back against the outbreak by speeding research into drugs and vaccines, the WHO said. Also, a multinational WHO-led team would go to China ‘very soon’. It further underlined that no known effective treatment existed to combat the virus, dismissing various reports of ‘drug breakthroughs’.
Coronavirus in numbers
China’s official authority on the Coronavirus outbreak — National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China issues briefing on a daily basis to apprise the world about the magnitude of the damage caused by the novel coronavirus. “As of 24:00 (local time) on Feb 5, the National Health Commission had received 28,018 reports of confirmed cases and 563 deaths in 31 provincial-level regions on the Chinese mainland,” it informed.
“…in all 1,153 patients had been cured and discharged from hospital. There still remained 24,702 suspected cases,” the commission added. The commission also stated that 26,302 patients were being quarantined for treatment (including 3,859 in serious condition). Also, 282,813 people have been identified as having had close contact with infected patients. 186,354 are now under medical observation.
Apart from the official figures, Chinese conglomerate Tencent made headlines last week as it listed figures for the coronavirus on Saturday showing 154,023 affected individuals while counting 24,589 as those who died due to the virus — about 43 times the official figures for Thursday.
Reports also said an infant had been found with the virus, hours after being born to an infected mother in a Wuhan hospital. The government is yet to officially confirm this.
In countries other than China
India has recorded a total of three confirmed cases of coronavirus outbreak, All three from Kerala.
The government has evacuated 654 individuals — 647 Indians and seven Maldivians — on two Air India flights from Wuhan till now. It has been decided that passengers entering the country via air will be screened at earmarked aerobridges at seven international airports — Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Cochin, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong met Health Secretary Preeti Sudan Tuesday to discuss the novel coronavirus (nCoV 2019) situation in both countries. Sudan is learnt to have raised with Sun the issue of leave extensions for Indian students studying in China, who had travelled home before the outbreak of the virus. Separately, two Kerala students, who had come to India from Wuhan and were under quarantine, have slipped out of the country and gone to Saudi Arabia, disregarding directions of health authorities to refrain from travelling during the incubation period of the novel coronavirus.
European countries like France, Britain, and Germany have flown several flights to China in order to evacuate their citizens. Britain on Tuesday urged all of its citizens in China to leave the country because of the outbreak, while Belgium became the latest nation to announce a confirmed case.
The Schengen Visa website stated that European governments could consider a US-style ban on foreign visitors who have recently been to China, in a bid to check the spread of the deadly Coronavirus outbreak, the health ministers of France and Germany were quoted as saying on Tuesday.
In Japan, ten more people on a quarantined cruise liner in the port of Yokohama south of Tokyo have tested positive for coronavirus, soaring the number of cases to 45, the health ministry was quoted as saying Thursday. About 3,700 people are facing at least two weeks quarantine on the Diamond Princess ship after 10 people were initially confirmed with the virus and moved to medical facilities.
The Guardian reported that Japanese health officials now have the results of 102 tests conducted on 273 passengers and crew who complained of feeling unwell or had been in proximity with a man in his 80s who disembarked late last month and tested positive on his return home to Hong Kong.
The 20 cases recorded so far onboard the cruise ship raise the number of infections in Japan to 45 – the highest total outside mainland China. The 10 new cases involve four people from Japan, two each from the US and Canada, and one each from New Zealand and Taiwan, the health ministry was quoted as saying, adding that five were in their 70s, four in their 60s and one in their 50s.
Local Thai media quoted Thailand Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as saying that a taxi driver who had carried Chinese passengers in his cab. The man has been ‘treated, cleared and discharged’ by Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, Bangkok Post reported.
Since the coronavirus outbreak started, the number of visitors from China travelling to Thailand has gone down, hitting its tourism-dependent economy adversely.
BBC reported that Hong Kong will impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine period on all visitors from mainland China as it tries to prevent the spread of the outbreak.
The policy comes into effect on Saturday but officials refused to close the border entirely, as demanded by medical staff who have gone on strike as a mark of protest. Hong Kong has 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus and one fatality has also been observed.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters, BBC, The Guardian)
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