By James Mathew
India is also keeping a close watch on Indian nurses working in Saudi hospitals who have undergone tests for the coronavirus infection
India is preparing to evacuate its national – primarily students – that remain in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan and adjoining cities in China’s Hubei province, with the federal foreign affairs ministry is seeking Beijing’s nod for the operation and Air India keeping an aircraft ready.
About 700 Indian students are believed to be enrolled in several Wuhan universities. A majority of them – mostly medical students – are said to have left for the Chinese New Year holidays.
Approximately 250 to 300 are estimated to remain in the city.
“We have begun the process to prepare for the evacuation of Indian nationals. Our embassy in Beijing is working out the logistics and is in touch with the Chinese government authorities and our nationals on this matter,” said Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs.
Official sources in New Delhi said that India has made a formal request to China to facilitate the evacuation process. Following the operation, the evacuated individuals will be kept in quarantine for 14 days.
The sources added that Indian diplomats are working with Chinese authorities to facilitate local transport to help the Indian citizens reached the airport, as well as to obtain the passports of Indian nationals who have given their documents over for routine formalities.
Hours after the Indian government’s announcement, China’s ambassador to India Sun Weidong sought to dispel fears by tweeting a link to a report from Xinhua.
“The WHO does not recommend the evacuation of nationals, and called on the international community to remain calm and not overreact,” the tweet said. “The WHO is confident in China’s epidemic prevention and control ability.”
Additionally, India is also keeping a close watch on Indian nurses working in Saudi hospitals who have undergone tests for the coronavirus infection.
Indian minister of state for external affairs, K Muraleedharan has tweeted that about 100 Indian nurses – mostly from Kerala – have been tested, with only one found to be infected.
The Saudi Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Saudi CDC) in a statement, however, debunked reports than an Indian nurse tested positive for the virus.
The minister added that the Indian government is in touch with its consulate in Jeddah about the nurses under observation at Al-Hayat Hospital.
“They (the consulate) are in touch with hospital management and the Saudi Foreign Ministry,” the minister tweeted. “Have asked our consulate to provide all possible support.”
Meanwhile, India has extended thermal screening to 20 airports from the seven listed earlier for passengers arriving from China.