6 Indians stopped from taking Air India’s Wuhan evacuation flight stare at uncertain future

Indian passengers who were brought back by special Air India flight from coronavirus-hit Wuhan wear medical mask at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) medical observation camp, in New Delhi on Saturday.(ANI Photo)
Indian passengers who were brought back by special Air India flight from coronavirus-hit Wuhan wear medical mask at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) medical observation camp, in New Delhi on Saturday.(ANI Photo)
Updated on Feb 01, 2020 05:12 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Sutirtho Patranobis

At least six Indians are staring at an uncertain future after Chinese authorities stopped them from boarding the special Air India flight, which flew out of coronavirus-struck Wuhan city early on Saturday with 324 of their compatriots on board.

The six Indians, comprising four students and two trainees from a Shenzhen-based Chinese electronics company, were stopped at immigration during their medical screening just before they were to board the New Delhi-bound aircraft.

All six displayed either above normal or fluctuating temperatures during the screening, and were immediately asked to step aside from the immigration line.

Fever, cough and shortness of breath are three key symptoms of the novel Coronavirus, a previously unknown strain.

Soon after, they were whisked away in local government vehicles to their campuses for displaying, what local authorities felt, could be symptoms of the virulent disease.

They were told their return to India would be indefinitely postponed.

A message from the Indian embassy on Saturday confirmed their fear.

“As you are aware, yesterday at the airport you were not allowed to board the flight as the Chinese authorities felt that your body temperature was of concern. As a result, we have been advised that you may be placed under observation before you are considered for repatriation to India,” the Indian embassy said in the message sent to the six over the social media app, WeChat.

The embassy had taken up the issue of their repatriation with the Chinese authorities.

“Embassy has formally taken up the issue with Chinese authorities and have requested that adequate and proper health care support is provided to you during this period. We request you to follow the advice given by the Chinese authorities so that your health returns to normal at the earliest,” the message said.

HT spoke to two among the six now stranded in Wuhan.

“I don’t know why they are not allowing me? I have been inside my dormitory on self-quarantine for more than a week. The slight rise in temperature could be for any reason. I don’t have any issue of cold and cough,” the company trainee said.

The trainee added that local Chinese officials haven’t shared any information about the number of days they have to be under observation.

They know little else about what is store for them in the next few days.

“What do we do next? What will I do for food? What happens if I actually contract the disease here?” the trainee asked.

Initially, the six thought that they will be allowed to leave Wuhan in the second Air India flight that will take off for India tonight with Indians living in other parts of Hubei.

At least three buses from their different cities in Hubei are bringing the Indians to the Wuhan airport on Saturday evening.

As it turned out, the six are unlikely to be allowed to board the second flight.

“They said they cannot allow us to leave immediately. We need to stay in observation,” the second one among the six told HT from Wuhan.

“It’s not exactly quarantine but they will not allow us to go back to India early,” the person added.

The Indians who had agreed to be evacuated had to sign on an Indian embassy form that said it was possible that their application could be rejected on health parametres.

“I am aware that it is likely that on the basis of medical checks performed as part of the evacuation process, I may be rejected for evacuation or even placed in quarantine by authorities in China,” the embassy form had pointed out.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021