Govt issues fresh travel advisory, asks people to refrain from visiting China
New Delhi: The only two Indian carriers that fly to China — IndiGo and Air India— on Wednesday announced the suspension of most of their flights to that country, while India has requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from Hubei province which has been sealed after the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
A fresh travel advisory asking people to refrain from travelling to China has been issued by the Union government which has ramped up screening across airports, ports, and borders, as the virus spread to at least 17 countries.
No case of the novel coronavirus has been detected in India, though hundreds of people remain under observation in many states including as many as 806 in Kerala, according to officials.
With several airlines based in Asia, North America and Europe restricting operations to the region, the Indian carriers too followed suit.
The country's largest airline IndiGo said it has suspended its flights on the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route from February 1 and on the Delhi-Chengdu route from February 1 to 20.
Similarly, state-run Air India is suspending its flights on the Delhi-Shanghai route from January 31 to February 14 and reducing the frequency on the Delhi-Hong Kong route to thrice-weekly only in the same time period. IndiGo will, for now, continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight which it is "monitoring on a daily basis".
The crew of the two airlines working on flights connecting India with South East Asian countries have been asked to wear N95 masks on the ground and take other precautions like not visiting public places.
British Airways, Indonesia's Lion Air Group, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines and Air Canada are among the carriers that have reportedly suspended or restricted flights to China, with many citing reductions in demand due to coronavirus outbreak.
The death toll from the disease in China has mounted to 132 with about 6,000 confirmed infections.
India has requested China for permission to operate two flights to bring back its nationals from Hubei Province, the Ministry of External Affairs said Wednesday. The Indian Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday circulated registration forms and consent notes for the Indians in Hubei province to be filled by them.
It has appealed to Indian citizens in Hubei who has not yet contacted the mission to do so on the given hotlines or dedicated email ID.
Air India has kept a 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai to airlift Indian citizens from Hubei.
In Kerala, out of 806 people under observation, 10 are in isolation wards in hospitals, while the rest are in-home quarantine. Twenty seven people are under observation, including 10 at hospitals in Mumbai, Pune, and Nanded.
In Madhya Pradesh, a 50-year-old woman and her 20-year-old son who were admitted to a hospital in Ujjain for possible exposure to novel Coronavirus tested negative for the deadly pathogen. A man, who was found with symptoms of coronavirus in Jaipur, also tested negative and 18 others who were under observation in Rajasthan were also in good health, officials said. The Union Health Ministry has also asked people to use 24x7 helpline (011-23978046) for queries related to respiratory infection. "In the view of the spurt of cases being reported in China and travel-related cases appearing in many countries....all non-essential travel to China to be avoided," it said.
As part of the preparedness, India has also increased the number of airports from seven to 21 where thermal screening of passengers is being done for possible exposure to the deadly nCoV. These include airports at Gaya, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam, Varanasi, Goa, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow besides the seven designated airports identified earlier.
The health ministry also has established four more laboratories apart from the NIV-Pune for testing samples. These labs have been made functional at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.
Special Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Sanjeeva Kumar held a meeting with health secretaries of states where the 21 identified airports are located along with the Airport Health Organization Officers to review their preparedness for prevention and management of novel coronavirus.
During the video-conefernce, he also interacted with health secretaries of the states, including those bordering Nepal (Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, WB, and Sikkim), an official statement said. The immigration and other staff members at the airports have been sensitized and dedicated ambulances are placed at the airports. Deployment of medical and para-medical staff is also being done for round-the-clock service, it said.
Meanwhile, India is placed at the 23rd place among "high-risk" countries where the disease can spread, according to a study based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive in the countries from the worst affected cities in China.
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