Visas of foreigners coming from China cancelled: Govt
New Delhi: India has cancelled all visas issued to foreign nationals coming from China as it stepped up efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus after 150 passengers were identified with symptoms of the deadly virus and sent to isolation units.
Making a suo motu statement in Rajya Sabha, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government has asked people not to travel to China, the epicentre of the deadly virus outbreak, and will mandatorily quarantine anyone returning from China.
Screening of passengers has been stepped up at 21 airports as well as 12 major seaports and all minor ports. Also, screening is being done at all integrated check posts on the Nepal border after the Himalayan nation reported a confirmed case.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said there are about 80 Indians who remained in Wuhan. Of them, 10 students who came to the airport were running fever and were not allowed to board the special Air India flight by the Chinese authorities. The remaining 70 have voluntarily stayed back.
When MPs asked if Pakistan has sought Indian help in evacuating its citizens from China, he said the offer was made to all neighbours and only Maldives choose to avail the offer.
While the Cabinet Secretary is taking daily reviews with all related ministries, a Group of Ministers comprising Cabinet Ministers for External Affairs and Civil Aviation Minister and Ministers of State for Home, Shipping and Health and Family Welfare has been constituted to monitor the situation.
"As of today, a total of 1,275 flights have been screened covering a total of 1,39,539 passengers, and 150 passengers identified with symptoms have been referred to isolation facilities," the health minister said.
Detailing steps taken to check the spread of coronavirus, he said travel advisories have been issued.
Besides "existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China," he said. "People travelling to China henceforth will be quarantined on return."
People having compelling reasons to visit India are asked to contact the Indian embassy in Beijing or consulate in Shanghai or Guangzhou, he said.
Universal thermal screening has been made mandatory for all flights from Singapore and Thailand, besides Hong Kong and China. "All these flights will park at earmarked aero-bridges to facilitate screening," he said.
The minister said three positive cases have been reported so far in India, all from Kerala. "All these cases have a travel history from Wuhan, China. They have been isolated and are reported to be clinically stable."
Besides screening incoming passengers, India evacuated 647 Indians and 7 Maldivian nationals from China.
"After the evacuation, the people are presently undergoing quarantine at special facilities created by the Indian Army in Manesar and by Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Chawla Camp," he said, adding 10 of the evacuees who showed symptoms of the virus have been shifted to isolation.
All of them have tested negative and are stable, he said.
Besides, 262 symptomatic travellers have been referred to isolation facilities and are being monitored.