India, Bangladesh consider evacuating citizens from China’s Wuhan


New Delhi (Reuters) – India and Bangladesh said on Tuesday they were working on evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 100 people.

Indian state airline Air India is on standby to evacuate an estimated 250 Indians from Wuhan in Hubei province, local media reported earlier.

“We have begun the process to prepare for evacuation of Indian nationals affected by the situation arising out of Corona-2019 virus outbreak in Hubei Province, China,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

He said Indian authorities were working out the logistics of evacuating people from the city of 11 million people that is under a lockdown.

In Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said talks were underway to bring back Bangladeshi citizens from China.

The death toll from the virus rose to 106 on Tuesday as authorities scrambled globally to curb its spread and U.S. health authorities advised travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to China. A growing number of countries have said they will evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

The virus has infected thousands of people in China and spread to more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus yet in India, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday, adding authorities were screening suspected patients in multiple cities. All hospitals have been asked to keep those suspected to have the virus in isolation wards, he added.

“We are taking all precautions against it,” said Vardhan.

Seven major airports in India including New Delhi and Mumbai were screening all passengers coming into India from China.

No one in Bangladesh has been found to have the virus yet either, its health minister, Zahid Maleque, told reporters, but the government was prepared if infections surfaced.

Hundreds of those trapped in Wuhan included students from India and Bangladesh.

Shashi Kumar Jaiman from India’s Gujarat state said she was worried for her daughter, who is studying medicine in Wuhan.

“We have been speaking to her every day, but she has not been contacted by the Indian government or the Indian embassy in Beijing so far,” said Jaiman, adding she hoped to get her daughter home soon.

Some Bangladeshi students took to social media to ask about evacuation.

Momen, the Bangladeshi foreign minister, said the government was keeping a close watch on people coming home from China.

“We are keeping their records so that we can track them if something goes wrong,” he said.

Officially known as “2019-nCoV”, the coronavirus can cause pneumonia, but it is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.

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