Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said it is awaiting a formal approval from the Chinese side to the request made by it to operate two aircraft to China to back Indian nationals from Hubei province, in the wake of outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
"Government of India has been conducting a regular review of the situation arising due to the outbreak of coronavirus in China. We have requested to operate two aircraft to China to bring back Indian nationals who are in Hubei province. We are waiting for formal approval from the Chinese side," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said while addressing a press briefing here.
Kumar further informed that the Ministry has established contacts with over 600 Indians across the province and is individually ascertaining their willingness to travel back to India.
"We are individually ascertaining their willingness to travel back to India. Our mission is working round the clock to work out the necessary logistics. We are also putting arrangements in place for people who want to come back, for them to travel to the airport," he said.
"We remain committed to the safety and well being of the diaspora abroad and we also appreciate the support which has been extended by the government of China in putting this process together," said Kumar.
He also denied that there has been any delay in the process.
"It takes time to put the systems in place. Seeking approval is one part of the story but you have to ascertain the willingness of people. People need to be contacted individually," he said.
"The second aspect is, of course, seeking approval from the Chinese side and it takes time. So I don't think there is a delay. There is a process and once the process is complete, I am sure the formal approvals will be granted. We do hope that this is done as soon as possible," he said.
Asked about the number of Indians in Hubei province, he said: "The number of overall Indians in the province Hubei as per our information is generally around 1200. How many are there now will be difficult to say. We have contacted over 600 and have asked them about their willingness to go back."
China on Thursday expressed its keenness to continue maintaining close communication with the Government of India regarding its efforts to deal with the situation arising out of coronavirus outbreak.
"We are willing to continue to maintain close communication with the Indian side, provide necessary assistance and convenience to ensure the health and safety of Indian citizens in China, and address their legitimate concerns timely," said Counselor Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy here, on Thursday.
The Wuhan novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been identified before.
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The symptoms reported in patients with nCoV include acute onset of fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing. The infection results in severe complications and even death.
China has imposed quarantine and travel restrictions, affecting the movement of 56 million people in more than a dozen cities, amid fears that the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year.
( With inputs from ANI )