Bangladesh scraps plans to bring back stuck 171 nationals from coronavirus-hit China

Dhaka, Feb 9 (PTI) Bangladesh has scrapped plans to bring back its 171 nationals stuck in coronavirus-hit China after it failed to arrange a flight following refusal from crew members to fly to the affected country, according to media reports on Sunday.

State-run Biman Airlines' Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft on February 1 brought back 312 Bangladeshis, including 12 children and three infants in the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, that has claimed 811 lives and infected over 37,000 others.

“We can't send any flight. No crew member agrees to go there either. So, we've told them [stranded Bangladeshis] to wait,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen was quoted as saying by bdnews24.com.

The government has said that the number of Bangladeshis who wanted to return but could not be brought back is 171.

Momen also denied reports that some of the stuck Bangladeshi nationals have complained of shortage of food and drinking water due to the lockdown, saying that the Chinese authorities were providing food and water to the 23 places where the Bangladeshis stay.

He said that the Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing was maintaining regular contact with the stranded Bangladeshis.

According to a report in the Dhaka Tribune, the minister said that the government has spent a lot of time for those intending to return.

'However, it is still not possible (to bring them back). The Biman crew members who brought back some 312 Bangladeshis from China are now in effect barred from flying to other countries,' he said.

He said that only a Chinese chartered flight could bring the Bangladeshi nationals back, the report said.

'Earlier, Chinese authorities agreed to do so, but later declined. We are not able to send any flights there,' he said.

According to the report, Momen made the comments days after Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said that around 171 Bangladeshis would be flown out of Wuhan upon clearance from Chinese authorities.

The virus emerged in early December and has been traced to a market in Wuhan that sold wild animals.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a global emergency. PTI RS RS