IAF relief flight from China brings back 76 Indians, citizens from 7 nations
An IAF C17 transport aircraft evacuated a group of 112 Indians and foreign nationals from the coronavirus outbreak epicentre, Wuhan, early on Thursday ending a week-long wait for their anxious families back home and putting a close to a terse exchange between New Delhi and Beijing over delaying this flight.
Besides the Indians, the US-made IAF relief aircraft also evacuated more than dozen nationals from seven countries: Bangladesh, South Africa, Madagascar, Myanmar and Maldives, US and China.
The majority among the foreigners were Bangladeshi students.
A group of OCI card-holding Chinese citizens were also on the flight.
“76 Indian nationals are returning home on this flight, which also has on board 23 nationals from Bangladesh, 6 from China, 2 each from Myanmar and Maldives and one each from South Africa, USA and Madagascar ,” Indian ambassador to China Vikram Misri said.
The flight was delayed on Wednesday night after a group of passengers had to be repeatedly tested after they exhibited fever syndromes; all registered passengers were finally allowed to board the flight.
All the evacuees are likely to go through mandatory 14-day quarantine at facilities set up in New Delhi.
India has already evacuated 647 nationals and seven Maldivians in two Air India flights in the first week of February.
Earlier in the day, the Indian flight came in with 15 tonnes of medical supplies to aid China in its fight against covid-19 outbreak, which has so far killed 2718 people and infected 78196 more in mainland China.
The relief flight was expected a week ago but had to be postponed because India received the clearance for the aircraft to land in Wuhan today only on Monday.
An Indian government statement said the medical assistance comprised “…masks, gloves and other emergency medical equipment”.
“This assistance has been provided in the wake of the Coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak in China and the request by China to provide supplies such as masks and medical equipment,” it added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to President Xi Jinping on February 8, 2020 expressing India’s solidarity “…with the people and Government of China and also offered assistance to China in this hour of need as a gift. The medical supplies will help augment China’s efforts to control the outbreak of this infection which has been declared as a Public Health Emergency by the World Health Organisation,” the statement added.
It was also a “mark of friendship and solidarity from the people of India towards the people of China as the two countries also celebrate 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations this year,” the statement said.
On February 14, the Chinese foreign ministry released the 57-country list comprising 33 countries that had given medical supplies, 17, which had offered to provide the same and seven more that had offered money and material aid.