Coronavirus: Stuck in limbo, says Indian man in Wuhan, as Centre pushes for evacuation

Death toll from coronavirus has soared to 106, while a new case came up in Germany

coronavirus hong kong ap Representational image | AP

The Centre has decided to take all steps for the possible evacuation of over 250 Indians from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and announced a raft of precautionary measures to deal with suspected cases. A meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba reviewed India's preparedness to deal with the virus amid mounting global concern over increasing number of cases in China and several other countries. The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China has soared to 106 while nearly 1,300 new cases have been confirmed. A new case has been confirmed in Germany. 

Officials said Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities for evacuation of Indian nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan city. "It was decided that steps may be taken to prepare for possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. Accordingly, Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities," a government statement said. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani have urged the Centre to take steps to bring back students from their states who are studying in Wuhan.

Wuhan along 12 other cities have been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading. Over 250 to 300 Indian students are reportedly stuck in Wuhan triggering concerns over their well-being. Writing in Malayala Manorama, Vinay Chandran, an Indian man stuck in Wuhan, claimed that embassy officials had informed them they were looking to evacuate via road, but there were some issues getting clearance from China. "The Chinese officials expressed concern that there could be a chance that the virus could be contracted if we travelled via road. Meanwhile, we received unofficial information that the MEA will send us a chartered flight for evacuation. All our hopes hinge on that. Wuhan is completely shut off, with no way in or out," he wrote. 

In India, no case has been detected so far, though nearly 450 people have been kept under observation in the country, most of them in Kerala. Some, who have returned from China in recent weeks, have approached medical authorities as a precautionary step. Till Monday, a total 33,552 passengers arriving in India from China in 155 flights have been screened. "4,359 passengers in 18 flights from China screened on Monday for nCoV. No [positive] case has been found in the country so far," a senior health official said. The meeting in Delhi presided by the cabinet secretary decided to take a a series of precautionary measures  including screening of people at international ports having traffic from China as well as at the integrated check posts across the border with Nepal.

The meeting also decided that the civil aviation ministry will issue instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China. Officials said the civil aviation ministry will also ask the airlines to make in-flight announcements and distribute "health cards" to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China. The home ministry will ensure that integrated check posts initiate screening of visitors across Nepal border.

"States have been requested to provide health staff for these check posts. SSB/ BSF/Immigration officers manning integrated check posts have been sensitised," the statement said. Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan spoke to chief secretaries and police chiefs of the five states bordering Nepal—Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim to review their preparedness for prevention and management of the coronavirus.

The Principal Secretary (Health) carried out a similar exercise with other states and Union Territories. The Union health ministry has also urged passengers who have a travel history to China since January 1 to come forward for self-reporting at the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms such as fever, cough, respiratory distress etc.

A Chinese national on tourist visa in Kolkata has been kept in an isolation ward at the Beleghata ID Hospital since Sunday after she complained of high fever and rashes, and officials said they are awaiting her test reports. They said the foreign national has mild fever and stomach ache, symptoms that do not necessarily suggest presence of the novel coronavirus. "She has been travelling for quite sometime and came to India from Madagascar a few months ago... As a part of precautionary measure, we have isolated the woman till her reports arrive," Principal Secretary of Health Department Vivek Kumar told PTI.

According to the World Health Organisation, the common symptoms of the virus strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.