Beijing, Jun 8 (PTI) China began evacuating hundreds of its nationals from India starting from Monday due to the prevailing coronavirus situation in the country, the official media reported.
One flight from Mumbai left on Monday while four more chartered flights taking Chinese nationals back home will depart from India in the coming days, the Global Times reported.
Quoting an official surnamed Hu, the paper said that four chartered flights will depart from the Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata and arrive in China in the coming days.
'People want to go back to China badly,' Hu said.
He said there were about 3,000 Chinese people doing business or studying in big cities in India, and about half of them returned to China before the lockdown began on March 25.
The evacuation began as several Indian cities have lifted lockdowns with the opening of restaurants, shopping malls and places of worship while curbs continue in severely hit regions.
The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi announced on May 25 that they will arrange for five flights run by the China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China to bring students, tourists and businessmen to five Chinese cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Close contacts of COVID-19 patients, people with symptoms such as fever and cough in the last 14 days are not allowed to book tickets.
The returnees are required to undergo testing paid for by themselves after arrival in China. They have to purchase the tickets that will cost between 8,000 yuan (USD 1,129) and 13,000 yuan (USD 1,839), Hu said, adding that the tickets are already hard to get after the embassy released the booking channel online.
Yang Zhanqiu, a Wuhan-based virologist, told the paper that China's national prevention and control mechanism and testing mechanisms are currently well established, ensuring that Chinese coming in from India will not cause a new wave of imported cases.
Although the difference in heat-resistance between the COVID-19 virus in India and China due to the different climates could impact the accuracy of testing, the 14-day isolation and medical observation will allow any emergency to be brought under control quickly, he said.
According to China's current policy, overseas returnees must undergo quarantine in designated sites and take a nucleic acid test and serum antibody test.
India evacuated about 700 Indians and other foreign nationals from Chinese city Wuhan in February at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the city, where the virus first emerged in December last.
About 200 Indians, willing to return home from China, were expected to be evacuated by a special Vande Bharat Air India flight from Shanghai on June 20. PTI KJV ZH