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Indians Stranded in Coronavirus-Hit Hubei Wait for Sign of Hope

Indians Stranded in Coronavirus-Hit Hubei Wait for Sign of Hope

New Delhi: Wearing a blue mask and the glare of an overhead light behind her face, Annem Jyothi spoke to the camera: “I am Jyothi. Today is the seventh day from the day that I have got rejected as a suspect of having coronavirus. Till now, I am having no symptoms of having coronavirus. I am fine and with good health condition”.

It was her second video appeal in last one week.

Jyothi was one of 10 Indians who were not allowed to board the two evacuation flights by Air India from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, as Chinese authorities did not consider them medically fit. In total, 80 Indians are still left in the central Chinese province of Hubei, as per Indian minister of external affairs S. Jaishankar.

Twenty-two-year-old Jyothi, a trainee at TCL, had been among the 320-odd Indians whose name had been on the second list of passengers for the February 1 flight. Before boarding the flight, all passengers were first screened by Chinese authorities.

Jyothi’s body temperature was recorded first at 36.9 Celsius degree. “The second recording showed 38 and then another third test showed 37,” she told The Wire on phone from her dormitory in Wuhan.

Shocked at the temperature reading, Jyothi said that these were probably a result of stress, long waiting and the cumulative layers of clothing that she wore against the cold weather.

So, while the others were boarding the flight, she was given an option to go in an ambulance to hospital or return home.

“I asked to return to my dormitory, as I didn’t want to go to a hospital as most of them would be full of cases,” she said.

Therefore, for the last week, she has been staying alone in the dormitory, which she once shared with other Indians. A male colleague was also similarly not allowed to board the flight and is also staying in another part of the building. “Right now, the Chinese HR officials are staying to take care of us,” she said.

Also read: From China to Chhawla: Indian Student Documents Flight from Coronavirus

In his statement to Rajya Sabha on Friday, Jaishankar had said that the Indian embassy was in touch with all the students.

Without much of hope of leaving Wuhan at an early date, Jyothi had recorded videos expressing her plight. The latest one was released on Friday.

“I have been talking with the Indian embassy every day till now about when I can go back home. They said they are talking with the Chinese officials and that the Chinese officials are reacting passively to the situation. I want to ask that… I am in such a critical place, in such a critical situation, where the possibility of infection in this area is so high. What if I get infected now? I cannot live in a place where the infection possibility is very high,” she stated.

Jyothi pointed out that while the Indians quarantined on return to Delhi are regularly checked, she has not been checked even once after leaving the airport. “…they have neither conducted any tests to say that I don’t have coronavirus. They have not kept me under observation, I am just living in my dormitory. They are not even allowing me to at least go back home”.

She is also worried about her Chinese visa was going to run out on February 19.

Ashish Yadav, an associate professor at Wuhan Textile University, is also now desperately looking for a way out from Wuhan. As reported by The Wire on January 31, he had voluntarily stayed back in Wuhan, worried about the risk of travelling with others on the plane and also concerned about the fragile condition of his wife.

Many of the 70 Indians who had stayed back in Hubei were confident that the medical facilities in China for treating the coronavirus would be better than in India. However, as Yadav realised, the situation worsened.

Earlier, Ashish and his wife, Neha Yadav, were allowed to walk around their university campus. But, it has now been completely stopped. “That’s when we realised that there is not likely to be an improvement and the conditions have become more serious,” Yadav said.

He realises that the numbers of Indians left may not be enough for a third flight. “I just need a certificate from the embassy so that I can go the Chinese authorities with it to leave Hubei and take a flight from the nearest airport,” said Yadav. He was hoping to reach Chongsha airport, which was still operating international flights as per a UK travel advisory.

Also read: As Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads, Hubei’s Indians Ride an Emotional Roller Coaster

But, this may not be an easy operation. On February 7, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government had effectively closed the Hubei province off from the rest of the country, in an effort to make sure the deadly virus does not spread rapidly. There are also reports that anyone leaving Hubei would have to undergo a quarantine period of two weeks in their destination city.

Yadav has been making all efforts through his member of parliament and political contacts in India to get the Indian embassy to give him an authorisation letter. “This is on me. I don’t want more help than that. But, the Chinese authorities need to see a letter from the embassy”.

On Friday, the Indian embassy gave him an authority letter which requests “all relevant authorities” in China to assist him in his efforts to leave Wuhan with his wife.

But, now he is stuck at the level of the transport authorities. Showing a screenshot of a conversation with a local official, Yadav said that there was not much support from the authorities in arranging private transportation.

Meanwhile, the Indian embassy in Beijing, via its Twitter account, cautioned Indians in Hubei on Saturday and said that “restrictions on movement have increased in recent days”

Reading the tweet, he felt that that the underlying message was that Chinese authorities would not allow permission for private travel by road from Hubei to other parts of China.

But, Yadav has still kept his hopes alive, as he is waiting for an important call from Delhi. “I have hope that I will be back tonight or tomorrow. Let’s see”.

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