Special Sri Lankan chartered plane to bring back citizens from coronavirus hit Wuhan: Minister

Colombo, Jan 31 (PTI) Sri Lanka on Friday chartered a special plane to evacuate 33 students stuck in China's Wuhan city, the epicentre of coronavirus epidemic that has claimed 213 lives so far.

Sri Lankan Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said the special aircraft departed from Negombo's Katunayake airport.

'Hopefully they would be able to return tonight. They will be arriving at the special section of the arrival terminal,' Wanniarachchi told reporters here, without mentioning which airport would the aircraft land.

'Sri Lanka Army will take them in a special bus which will provide all required health facilities to Diyathalawa, a military facility in the central region,' Wanniarachchi said.

The death toll rose to 213, mostly of elderly people, after 43 new deaths all but one in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, China's national health authorities said, adding that 1,982 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 9,692.

The departure of the special flight comes after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had requested that the Sri Lankan students be evacuated.

The Sri Lanka Embassy in Beijing submitted an application to land a Sri Lankan Airlines aircraft in Wuhan city airport to airlift the 33 Sri Lankan students including their family members, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The government put in place special measures as precaution against coronavirus.

So far only one positive case had been reported - a Chinese woman tourist.

Local people have reacted apprehensively to the threat as there are large number of Chinese construction workers employed in Chinese funded infrastructure projects in the island nation.

The government has imposed nation put price control on face masks as the threat led to panic buying.

India and the UK also have sent chartered flights to Wuhan to evacuate their citizens amid the virus outbreak. PTI CORR RUP RUP