A special Air India plane landed in New Delhi on Saturday morning after evacuating 324 Indian nationals from the novel coronavirus-hit Wuhan and another flight of the airline would leave the national capital for the Chinese city in the afternoon, officials said.
The first plane — Air India’s jumbo B747 aircraft carrying 211 students, 110 working professionals and three minors– reached Delhi around 7.30 am, they said.
There were five doctors from Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and one paramedical staff on board, said an Air India spokesperson.
The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar near Delhi to keep those evacuated from China’s Hubei province.
Officials said they would be monitored for any signs of infection for a duration of two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members.
“With 324 passengers, a special flight has taken off for India from Wuhan. It may reach Delhi at 7.30am,” said the Air India spokesperson at 1.19 am on Saturday.
The flight had departed from Delhi airport at 1.17 pm on Friday to evacuate Indian nationals from China, where more than 250 people – none of them Indian – have died due to novel coronavirus.
Hours after the arrival of the first flight from the Chinese city in Delhi, the Air India spokesperson said, “Another flight will depart to Wuhan from Delhi at 12.50 pm today with a different set of crew, same doctors’ team with other aircraft. The rescue team is again headed by Capt Amitabh Singh, Director Operation, Air India.”
Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, is the epicentre of novel coronavirus outbreak. The virus outbreak has killed 259 people in China with total confirmed cases surging to 11,791 amid stepped up efforts by a number of countries to evacuate their nationals from Hubei province, officials said on Saturday.
About Friday’s flight, the spokesperson had said earlier during the day, “A team of five doctors from RML hospital, one paramedical staff from Air India, with prescribed medicines from doctors, masks, overcoats, packed food are in the aircraft. A team of engineers, security personnel are also there in this special aircraft. Whole rescue mission is being led by Captain Amitabh Singh.”
The spokesperson had added that there were five cockpit crew members and 15 cabin crew members on Friday’s flight.
Before departure at Delhi airport, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani had said, “No service will take place in the plane. Whatever food is there will be kept in seat pockets. As there will be no service, there will be no interaction (between cabin crew and passengers).”
“Masks have been arranged for the crew and passengers. For our crew, we have also arranged a complete protective gear,” he had added.
“Total five doctors from the Health Ministry are also going… The plane will be there (at Wuhan airport) for 2-3 hours,” Lohani had said.
Air India has done such evacuations earlier also from countries such as Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Nepal.