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India to take steps for possible evacuation of Indians in China

India to take steps for possible evacuation of Indians in China
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New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre on Monday decided to take steps for possible evacuation of over 250 Indians from Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and announced a raft of precautionary measures to deal with suspected cases.

A meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba reviewed India's preparedness to deal with the virus amid mounting global concern over increasing number of cases in China and several other countries.

In India, no case has been detected so far though nearly 450 people have been kept under observation in the country, most of them in Kerala, following screening for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. Some, who have returned from China in recent weeks, have approached medical authorities as a precautionary step.

The meeting in Delhi presided by the Cabinet Secretary decided to take a a series of precautionary measures including screening of people at international ports having traffic from China as well as at the integrated check posts across the border with Nepal. Officials said Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities for evacuation of Indian nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan city.

"It was decided that steps may be taken to prepare for possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. Accordingly, Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities," a government statement said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani have urged the Centre to take steps to bring back students from their states who are studying in Wuhan.

Wuhan along 12 other cities have been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading. The death toll climbed to 80 with 2,744 confirmed cases.

Over 250 to 300 Indian students are reportedly stuck in Wuhan triggering concerns over their well-being. The statement said the ministry of civil aviation and ministry of health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities respectively.

The meeting also decided that the civil aviation ministry will issue instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.

Officials said the civil aviation ministry will also ask the airlines to make in-flight announcements and distribute "health cards" to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.

The home ministry will ensure that integrated check posts initiate screening of visitors across Nepal border.

"States have been requested to provide health staff for these check posts. SSB/ BSF/Immigration officers manning integrated check posts have been sensitised," the statement said.

Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan spoke to chief secretaries and police chiefs of the five states bordering Nepal -- Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim to review their preparedness for prevention and management of the coronavirus.

The Principal Secretary (Health) carried out a similar exercise with other states and Union Territories.

Till Sunday, 29,707 passengers arriving in India in 137 flights have been screened for novel coronovirus infection symptoms and no case has so far been detected in India, officials said.

The Union health ministry has also urged passengers who have a travel history to China since January 1 to come forward for self-reporting at the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms such as fever, cough, respiratory distress etc.

A Chinese national on tourist visa in Kolkata has been kept in an isolation ward at the Beleghata ID Hospital since Sunday after she complained of high fever and rashes, and officials said they are awaiting her test reports.

They said the foreign national has mild fever and stomach ache, symptoms that do not necessarily suggest presence of the novel coronavirus

"She has been travelling for quite sometime and came to India from Madagascar a few months ago... As a part of precautionary measure, we have isolated the woman till her reports arrive," Principal Secretary of Health Department Vivek Kumar said.

According to the World Health Organisation, the common symptoms of the virus strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

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