A specially prepped Air India's jumbo B747 plane brought back 324 Indian nationals stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, on Saturday, February 1.
The plane, that landed at Delhi's IGI airport at around 7.26 am, was also carrying five doctors from Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and an Air India paramedic. The flight was operating with 15 cabin crew and five cockpit crew.
It had departed from Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3), Delhi for the central Chinese city on Friday. Another special flight to China is also scheduled for Saturday.
The departure of the flight was delayed from Wuhan airport as the immigration and Chinese authorities did not allow six Indians on board after they reported high temperatures during screening.
"Six passengers were offloaded as they had high temperatures," a passenger told news agency ANI.
Among those who returned from Wuhan today are three minors and 211 students.
India has thanked the Chinese government for facilitating the special flight to evacuate the Indians from Wuhan. "An Air India flight carrying 324 Indian nationals from the coronavirus hit Hubei Province of China took off from Wuhan in the early hours of Feb 1. Majority of the passengers were Indian students. We sincerely thank the Chinese government for facilitating this flight," the Indian embassy tweeted.
The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar near Delhi to keep those evacuated from China. Officials said they would be monitored for any signs of infection for a duration of two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members.
Coronavirus in India
In India's first confirmed case, one person in Kerala has been tested positive for the deadly novel coronavirus. The person was a student at Wuhan University in China.
In a statement, the Press Information Bureau of India said the student tested positive is from Kerala. "The patient has tested positive for novel coronavirus and is in isolation in the hospital. The patient is stable and is being closely monitored," the statement said.
Situation in China
The death toll due to Coronavirus in China has risen to 259, the country's health authority said on Saturday, as the United States announced new border curbs on foreign nationals who have been in China.
The province of Hubei, the centre of the epidemic, remains under virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down, but small numbers of travellers continue to breach the lockdown.
Amid fears that the virus could spread further overseas, the United States announced measures to restrict entry to foreign nationals who have recently been in China. All three major US airlines also said on Friday they would cancel flights to mainland China.
Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd said the entry restrictions imposed by the United States and other countries had forced it to suspend its direct flights to China from February 9.
Nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, according to travel and data analytics firm Cirium.
WHO declares global health emergency
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency after the death toll in China increased to 213 on Friday, with 9,692 confirmed in the country's 31 provincial-level regions.
The new virus, which is of the same genre as SARS which broke out in 2003, was first reported in the WHO Disease Outbreak News on January 5, 2020. It has progressively spread across many countries from its epicentre in Wuhan.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Chinese authorities have closed transportation services across many parts of the country, including Wuhan. The virus has spread at a much faster pace than the 2003 SARS epidemic.