Air India may fly to China to evacuate Indians amid coronavirus outbreak

Photo: (Twitter: @airindiain)

Air India is likely to operate a flight service to Wuhan in Central China to evacuate Indians stuck in the city due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, sources said on Tuesday.

However, when contacted, the airline's CMD Ashwani Lohani said that the airline is prepared to operate the flight, but did not divulge the date of commencing the service.

The airline is expected to operate a flight using Boeing 747.

Earlier, India's civil aviation regulator DGCA gave its clearance to the airline to operate the Mumbai-Delhi-Wuhan flight.

Highly-placed sources said that Civil Aviation Secretary P.S. Kharola had back-to-back consultation here on Tuesday with Air India officials about operating the special flight.

According to sources, the major worry with regards to evacuating Indians from Wuhan and other affected areas is about screening the people boarding the flight.

Moreover, the passengers have to be constantly monitored during the flight and have to be quarantined after reaching Delhi.

"Do we have the required infrastructure to deal with this? The aircraft, crew and the passengers from Wuhan have to be isolated and only after ruling out infection they are to be allowed to leave," a source said.

He added that it is a complicated issue as India cannot shrug off its responsibility.

"So, infected or not infected, they have to be brought back," the source said.

The new virus, which is of the same genre as SARS which broke out in 2003, was first reported in the WHO Disease Outbreak news on January 5, 2020. It has progressively spread across many countries from its epicentre in Wuhan.

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Chinese authorities have closed transportation services across many parts of the country, including Wuhan.

The new virus has spread at a much faster pace than the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Wuhan is the hub of transport and industry in central China.

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