The government has asked Air India to be ready to operate a special flight for bringing back vulnerable Indians, including university students from China, in the wake of rising worries over coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan province and reports of new cases of viral infection in other parts of the country.
“Only Air India has wide-body aircraft and so we can operate special flight with a B747. We are awaiting directions from the government,” said an airline official.
But the official added that there is growing apprehension within the airline that bringing people from the infection-hit areas of China could pose a bigger challenge in case even a single person with symptoms of infection gets onboard.
“Presence of one infected person could put 400 people’s health at risk,” he said.
Ever since the deadly coronavirus was detected in Wuhan province, as many as 2,008 cases of confirmed infections have been reported from various parts of the country with total death toll climbing to 80 so far.
The Ministry of External Affairs has said that as of now no Indian in China has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the embassy in Beijing is in close touch with all Indians in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei province.
The Indian government is in touch with Chinese authorities to ensure that Indians are safe. It is learnt that India has requested China to permit Indian students stuck in Wuhan to leave.
In order to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the local government authorities in Wuhan province had earlier suspended all public transportation, including buses, trains and flights.