Amid stepped efforts by several countries to evacuate their citizens from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, Sri Lankan students evacuated on February 1 will be kept under quarantine for two weeks. The evacuation plan was given a formal nod after discussions between the Sri Lankan and Chinese authorities following the declaration of a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Sri Lankan Airlines flight landed at the southern Mattala airport and the students were taken to a military facility in Diyathalawa as per the standard protocol set for health emergencies. The island nation has established a special committee to prevent the spread of the deadly virus since a large Chinese community work at construction sites in different parts of Sri Lanka.
At least 259 deaths due to the coronavirus have been reported with more than 11,000 confirmed cases of infection. WHO now declared the new coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) after the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee. The committee also acknowledged that human-to-human transmission has occurred outside Wuhan and outside China.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated the Chinese government for the ‘extraordinary measures’ it took to contain the virus, despite the severe social and economic impact those measures are having on the Chinese people. “We don’t know what sort of damage this coronavirus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility," said Ghebreyesus.
India has also started evacuating its nationals and an Air India flight carrying 324 Indian citizens, with a majority of students, landed in Delhi earlier today. Indians who arrived at the Delhi airport will be taken to an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp where they will be kept in isolation for 14 days for medical observation.
Another Air India flight has taken off for Wuhan to evacuate remaining citizens who gave their consent to leave Hubei Province for the time being. Indian Embassy in Beijing urged all Indian nationals living in Hubei province to contact the embassy through hotlines if they intend to avail the next flight.
(With PTI inputs)