India has evacuated 324 of its nationals from Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, where hundreds of Indians are studying in universities.
After landing in New Delhi Saturday they were taken to two quarantine facilities set up by the army, where they will be kept under observation for two weeks.
India confirmed its first case of coronavirus Thursday in the southern state of Kerala, in a student who had returned from Wuhan. The focus in the world’s second most populous country now has turned to preparedness.
More than 200 of the people who landed in New Delhi Saturday are students – over 20,000 Indians study in China, mostly in medical colleges.
A second flight is scheduled to bring back more nationals from Wuhan and nearby areas that are under lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
Authorities have been screening all people arriving from China and Hong Kong at seven of India's major airports and have adopted quarantine procedures for anyone suspected of carrying the virus. About 40 people have been put in isolation across eight states.
Health experts have stressed that surveillance will be crucial to prevent its spread in the country’s crowded cities.
"We are taking all precautions against it,” Health minister Harsh Vardhan said earlier this week.
India on Friday also banned the export of personal protective clothing and masks amid a surge in demand from China.
Two of the country’s major airlines have temporarily suspended most flights to China and authorities have asked Indians to “refrain” from traveling to the country.
Besides India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are also evacuating their citizens from China – Sri Lanka brought back 33 students on Saturday. Sri Lanka reported its first case of the coronavirus in a 43-year-old Chinese tourist from Hubei Province.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency. The decision was announced after cases of human-to-human transmissions were confirmed outside China.