Coronavirus: China toll at 106, Indian aircraft on standby for evacuation

Health commission in China's central Hubei province pegs total number of confirmed cases at 4,515

Nearly, 6,101 patients remained in severe condition.

The death toll due to coronavirus outbreak mounted to 106 with 1,300 new cases being confirmed until Tuesday (January 28).

According to reports, the health commission in central Hubei province said 24 more people died from the virus and 1,291 were infected, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 4,515 in the country.

While the Hubei province and its surrounding, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, continues to be under lockdown, the country has further tightened travel restrictions to contain its spread.

Major cities have suspended public transport and taxi services.

Also read: Coronavirus: The evolving pandemic is a real threat to India

Most of the bus services have been stopped to Hubei while Beijing and Shanghai have introduced a 14-day observation period for people coming from Hubei.

With the virus outbreak coinciding with the Lunar New Year celebration, the Chinese government has suspended all festivities and extended the holiday period by three days to Sunday, BBC reported.

The virus has spread to other countries with eight cases being reported from Thailand, five each from USA, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan, four each from Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, three from France, two from Vietnam and one each from Nepal, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Germany.

Britain, which has been safe from the virus so far, has asked almost 1,500 residents who travelled from China in the past two weeks to put themselves in isolation and not venture out unless advised otherwise.

India on alert

India so far has not reported any case of the virus strain, but several people with suspected cases of coronavirus across cities have been quarantined and put under observation.

While the Centre is waiting for the nod of the Chinese government to evacuate Indians from Wuhan in Hubei, state governments have stepped up measures to screen and isolate any suspected case of coronavirus, especially after Nepal confirmed its outbreak.

At a high-level review meeting on Monday it was decided that India will request the Chinese government for the evacuation of more than 250 Indians from Wuhan and keep a special Air India plane ready for the purpose.

Flag carrier Air India has kept one of its 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai for the evacuation of Indian citizens from Wuhan province in China in the wake of Cornovirus outbreak in the East Asian country, an official source said on Tuesday.

The airline is awaiting necessary approvals from the ministries of External Affairs and Health to operate the special evacuation flight, the source said. The decision follows the government instructions to various ministries to take steps to deal with the issue. “We have kept a Boeing 747-400 ready in Mumbai to operate an evacuation flight to China whenever we get a go ahead from the government,” the source said.

The source added, “We are awaiting clearances from Ministry of External Affairs and also from Health Ministry. The Health Ministry’s nod is required because the operating crew has to fly in a virus outbreak territory.” At the Cabinet Secretary meeting on Monday, the government decided that steps may be taken to prepare for the possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan.

Also read: Govt prepares for possible evacuation of Indians from Wuhan

Accordingly, Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities while the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities respectively, an official release had said on Monday.

Government also asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to issue instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all direct and indirect flight to China besides facilitating in-flight announcements and distribution of health cards to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.

Bordering states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have been asked to screen tourists from Nepal for symptoms of the infection and keep isolation wards ready to admit any confirmed case.

Among 3,756 passengers screened at the Mumbai International Airport so far, four suspected with coronavirus have been admitted to Mumbai’s Kasturba hospital while two have been admitted to Pune’s Naidu hospital.

While no cases have been reported in the southern states so far, Tamil Nadu health minister C Vijayabaskar while speaking to reporters on Tuesday urged the public not to panic, stating that the government is well prepared and taking all precautionary and preventive steps.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a meeting with state health department officials on Monday directed them to set up a 10-bed isolation ward in every district hospital and medical college in the state as a preparatory measure.

(With inputs from agencies)