A special flight of Biman Bangladesh has left for the country carrying 318 Bangladeshis from the Coronavirus-struck Wuhan city in China at 9:32am (Wuhan Time).
Earlier, a Boeing 777-300ER flight of Biman reached China at 11pm (Wuhan Time) to bring them back. After completing the immigration and medical check up of the passengers, the plane started for Bangladesh.
Four doctors were sent with the flight that took off from Dhaka at 5.52pm (Bangladesh time) on Friday.
Bangladeshi citizens in Wuhan city of China reached the airport in the afternoon from 18 universities. The immigration process started at around 1:10am (Wuhan Time).
"We're ready to bring back Bangladeshis living there. We've also informed the Chinese government. They've given permission. We can now bring our citizens back," Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at a briefing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The Foreign Minister mentioned that the Chinese government confirmed that none of the Bangladeshi returnees have been infected with the virus.
The flight is scheduled to arrive at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 2am (Saturday), a senior official at the national flag carrier, told UNB on Friday.
After the flight lands in Dhaka, the passengers will be quarantined for 14 days at the Hajj camp in Ashkona, opposite to the airport.
The Foreign Minister in an interview with the Voice of America said that 318 Bangladeshi citizens are returning from China.
"Initially, 361 people were supposed to return. But some of them chose to stay in China fearing that the symptoms may show up after they return to Bangladesh and they may end up infecting others," he said during the interview.
"Among the returnees, 18 are children," he added.
China counted 9,692 confirmed cases with a death toll of 213, including 43 new fatalities till Friday morning, reports AP.
The vast majority of the cases have been in Hubei province and its provincial capital, Wuhan. No death has been reported outside China.
Preparations by Bangladesh Mission
"We had designated 20 campuses and made 20 student representatives to organise the team of evacuees in batches from 20 universities, colleges and institutes," Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman told UNB.
He said they have designated eight buses and two jeeps on 20 different routes to pick the evacuees from 23 locations.
A table was drawn showing campus-wise drivers, names, cellphone numbers, national ID numbers and vehicle number plates and have circulated in "Wuhan WeChat Group".
The Embassy has opened another WeChat Group "Executive Team Wuhan" with team leaders and representatives of 20 campuses to better communicate with them and organise the evacuation smoothly.
The Embassy is working almost 24/7 over the last nine days to coordinate the whole process of evacuation from sensitisation to implementation, said the Ambassador.
In the process, the Embassy has increased two hotlines on 24/7 basis. Bangladesh diplomats have been assigned to attend those phone calls.
The Foreign Minister on Thursday said the government has planned to bring back 370 registered Bangladesh citizens from Wuhan on clearance from the Chinese government
No-one of them has been affected so far by coronavirus but they are likely to be kept at Ashkona Hajj Camp for safety and observation, the minister said.
Earlier in the day, the Foreign Minister said a total of 370 Bangladesh citizens from 22 institutions, mostly from Wuhan city of China, have registered their names expressing their willingness to return home.
But, 15 Bangladesh citizens have opted to stay back in China for better health facilities in China and avoid the risk of transmitting the coronavirus in Bangladesh, said the foreign minister.
Dr Momen said the Chinese authorities informed Bangladesh that they will bear all the expenses of treatment if any foreigners affected by the virus.
The Foreign Minister said the Health Ministry will take care of the returnees upon their arrival in Bangladesh.
He said the Health Ministry has taken necessary preparations to make spaces in hospitals to monitor the returnees from China.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing has opened a hotline number + (86)-17801116005 for Bangladeshis.
There are about 400-500 Bangladeshi students in Wuhan, according to the Foreign Ministry here.