Even as the number of people afflicted by the novel coronavirus continues to increase and the death toll in China has reached around 2,300 according to the censored information that emerges from that country, the Indian aircraft all set to leave for Wuhan to evacuate stranded Indians has not received Chinese permission to carry out the operation. However, China has clarified that there is no delay from its side.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 Globemaster is set to fly to coronavirus-affected China’s Wuhan province. Sources say China is not deliberately approving the Indian rescue operation. The IAF aircraft carrying medicines will bring back the Indians stranded in Wuhan.
Official sources say that the Indians trapped in Wuhan are struggling with stress and anxiety. There is uncertainty among Indians trapped there as to whether they will be able to return to India.
The Chinese embassy spokesperson in India said, “We always attach great importance to the health and safety of Indians in China and provide assistance for the return of Indian citizens.” He said that the situation in Hubei was still complex and prevention and control of the pandemic (China is still not using this term) had entered a critical phase.
Relevant departments of the two countries are in touch, the embassy said. “There is nothing like deliberate delay in permitting flight by China,” the spokesman added, saying that the schedule of the flight was being worked out.
The assurance is vacuous as per India’s Ministry of External Affairs. The aircraft was supposed to carry a large stock of medical supplies to China and bring the Indians back from Wuhan. Sources said that China’s words and action do not match. “While they have been consistently saying that there was no delay in approving the aircraft, they have not approved the flight without giving any clear reason,” a source told Sirf News.
India was to send the C-17 military transport aircraft to Wuhan, the most affected Chinese city, on 20 February.
Earlier this month, in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that India was united with the people and government of China in dealing with the challenge of coronavirus. The Indian prime minister offered to provide assistance to the northern neighbour.
A source associated with the proposed operation said that in view of the Indian ethos of helping others in times of distress, relief materials were offered while India itself is not overflowing with medical resources.
Among the items to be supplied are gloves, surgical masks, feeding pumps and defibrillators, which China requires. According to an estimate, more than 100 Indians are currently living in Wuhan. Many countries have evacuated their citizens from China and prohibited the movement of people and goods to that country in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign ministry sources said that China was dithering perhaps because taking help from India projects it in poor light. “Why otherwise would they obstruct the evacuation of our citizens from Wuhan?” a source asked.
He said India could remind Chinese President Xi Jinping of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer of help. “China can be reminded of the Indian government’s offer to provide all possible assistance to China,” the source said.
India announced on 17 February that the IAF’s largest C-17 Globemaster aircraft would fly to China and bring back not only Indians but also citizens of neighbouring countries stranded there. But China has not yet given the green signal to fly this aircraft.
Chinese official figure unreliable
The death toll of the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic has risen to 2,345 officially, with 109 more deaths and 76,288 confirmed infections as per the official figure that may not be reliable.
China’s health officials said that the World Health Organization (WHO) experts present in the country were likely to visit the most affected Wuhan city on Saturday to investigate the CoViD-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) pandemic.
A Chinese health official said on Saturday on Friday that out of a total of 397 people infected of CoViD-19, 109 had died in 31 different provinces of China. A regular report by the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday that a total of 2,345 people had died of the disease by the end of Friday. It said the coronavirus infection was confirmed in 76,288 cases across the country.
According to China, 106 of these deaths have occurred in the Hubei province and one each in Hebei, Shanghai and Xinjiang province. The Provincial Health Commission confirmed until Friday 106 deaths as well as 366 more infections in the Hubei province.
NHC said that 20,659 patients infected with the virus across China had been discharged from hospitals on Friday after their condition improved.
1,600 trolls deployed for censorship: The Epoch Times
WHO Director-General Taderos Adhanom Grabayes told the media in Geneva on Friday that the WHO-led team of international experts, currently present in China, would visit Wuhan on Saturday to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, other countries led by the US estimate a far greater spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. After a Chinese national died in France earlier this week, Italy has lost a citizen who had flown in from China.
The Epoch Times has reported: “The propaganda department in virus-stricken Hubei province has engaged over 1,600 censors to scrub the internet of ‘sensitive’ information relating to the coronavirus outbreak…”
The newspaper says that the internal report of 15 February had detailed the agency’s efforts “to ramp up censorship measures”. It says that the draft followed a speech of Xi via video link on 10 February to “frontline responders” of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.