Coronavirus: Air India jumbo takes off for Wuhan to evacuate Indians

The Air India jet is expected to return with around 400 Indians by 2am

Air India 747 (File) An Air India Boeing 747 | Facebook account of Air India

Air India's 423-seater jumbo Boeing 747 plane took off from the Delhi airport for Wuhan around 1.20pm on Friday to evacuate Indian nationals as China deals with the novel coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

There are five doctors from the health ministry and one paramedical staff on board, they said, adding around 400 Indians are expected to be evacuated.

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"The plane did a pushback towards the runway around 12.50pm. It took off around 1.20pm on Friday. The departure got delayed a little from the 12.30pm scheduled time because of some pending clearances," said a senior airline official.

The plane has one paramedical staff on board, he said, adding that the plane is likely to return between 1am to 2am on Saturday.

Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said on Friday morning, “No service will take place in the plane. Whatever food is there will be kept in seat pockets. As there will be no service, there will be no interaction (between cabin crew and passengers).”

"Masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers. For our crew, we have also arranged a complete protective gear," he added.

"Total five doctors from the Health Ministry are also going... The plane will be there (at Wuhan airport) for 2-3 hours," said Lohani.

The government has reached out to over 600 Indians living in China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, to ascertain their willingness to be brought back to India.

The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak on Friday climbed to 213 with the number of confirmed cases totalling to 9,692. Hubei province reported 5,806 confirmed cases, including 204 deaths.