Taking off from Mumbai early on Friday, local time, the Boeing 747 will first stop off at India’s capital, Delhi to load up on supplies before heading into China for the rescue mission, where a number of nations have issued travel restrictions due to the new virus, recently declared a global health crisis by the World Health Organization.
New Delhi indicated it would take steps to bring Indian citizens home from the embattled city earlier this week, hinging only on approval from Chinese authorities. There are around 250 Indians currently trapped in Wuhan, many of them medical students studying abroad.
The move follows a similar initiative by Washington to bring US consulate officials home from Wuhan, as well as other US citizens who were at a “greater risk” of infection. Australia, Canada, Japan, and a number of EU nations have also either begun or are preparing to begin evacuations.
Pakistan, for its part, has signaled it will follow a different course, with the country’s special assistant to the prime minister on health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, stating “If we act irresponsibly and start evacuating people from there, this epidemic will spread all over the world like wildfire.”
On Friday, Islamabad also halted all flights to and from China, effective immediately, with additional secretary of aviation Abdul Sattar Khokhar telling Reuters “We are suspending flights to China until Feb 2,” after which the situation would be reviewed again.
As of Thursday, the virus has soared to 9,692 confirmed infections in China, with 1,527 patients in critical condition, while the death toll has climbed to 213, many of them elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The virus has so far spread to over 15 countries, and four of them besides China have reported cases of person-to-person transmission, including the US, Germany, Japan, and Vietnam.
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