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Indians remain stuck in Coronavirus-hit Wuhan as govt preps to evacuate them

In a message circulated among Indian residents who remain in Wuhan, the embassy said that the Chinese authorities had briefed them on the steps taken by them to contain the spread of the virus.

Various options for evacuating foreign nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province were also discussed, the statement added.

The message circulated in the WeChat social media group for Indians in Hubei said: “The Embassy had a meeting with officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China today afternoon. In the meeting, Chinese authorities briefed on the steps taken by them to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak,” it said.

“Various options for evacuating foreign nationals from Wuhan/Hubei province were also discussed. We continue to engage with the Chinese authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of Indian nationals in Hubei province. We will update you when we have more information from the Chinese authorities,” the message said.

At present more than 200 Indian students and working individuals are said to be in Wuhan, which is under an unprecedented lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of China and abroad.

Following the sudden lockdown last Thursday, the Indian embassy in Beijing has had to field hundreds of phone calls from worried citizens, asking for clarifications about the situation.

Many complaints were about being stuck in the lockdown city without access to essentials.

Many of the remaining students remain stuck in their university dormitories.

The embassy message said Chinese authorities were ready to help in case of any shortage.

In order to handle any issues regarding food, water and other essential supplies, the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office has also provided two helplines (027-87122256 and 87811173) on which the provincial authorities can be contacted round the clock. You may approach them on issues that you may face there.”

“However, please also let us know about your concern with specific details so that we are also able to take it up with the authorities in Hubei,” the embassy message said.

The Chinese officials, it is learnt, told the foreign diplomats that the essential needs for foreign nationals in Hubei and Wuhan were being looked after.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to queries about the meeting.

More than 90 percent of the virulent Coronavirus cases have been traced to a now-closed seafood and fish market in Wuhan, which also traded in wildlife.

Besides Indians, a large number of Pakistani and Bangladeshi students also study in Wuhan.

The US and South Korean governments, which have consulates in Wuhan, have decided to evacuate their nationals from the city by chartered flights.

The South Korean government is expected to fly out the first batch of their citizens from Wuhan on Tuesday.

The Chinese foreign ministry has so far only indirectly confirmed the US plan to evacuate its citizens.

“In accordance with international practice and in accordance with relevant Chinese epidemic prevention regulations, China has made corresponding arrangements to provide necessary assistance,” the statement said about reports of the US plan.

The evacuation of foreign nationals including Indians from Hubei and Wuhan remain mired in logistical issues especially about not allowing the virus to spread through those being evacuated.

It has been complicated by the fact that an infected person can pass on the virus to another even during the one-day-to-14-day incubation period.

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