A large number of Indian students in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the new SARS-like virus which rattled China and the world with its sheer virulence, kept an anxious watch on the situation as local officials on Wednesday asked people to stop travelling in and out of the city.
The bustling central Chinese city of about 11.5 million people with beautiful parks and lakes has overnight turned into a city of nightmare as nine people died and over 440 people admitted to hospitals with quarantine facilities.
Wuhan became a household name in India for being the venue of the historic first informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in 2018. It is also home to about 700 Indians, mostly students.
Over 500 Indian students are studying medicine while others were pursuing Ph.D and language programmes. China has become a major destination for Indian medical students with their numbers sharply increasing to 23,000 in the last few years.
While most of the Indian students left for home in the second week of this month after completion of the exams, others remained in the city to complete their academic work.
"Basically, do not go to Wuhan. And those in Wuhan please do not leave the city," National Health Commission Vice-Minister Li Bin told journalists on Wednesday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that there is no ban on people leaving and entering Wuhan, while the officials have stepped up monitoring measures like screening people at most of the crowded places.
Curtailing the movement of people appears to be the main task for the Chinese officials as all the deaths and most of the cases reported in different Chinese cities and the world are linked to Wuhan.
Local officials announced the suspension of Friday prayers in mosques, according to social media reports, in an apparent attempt to avoid close gathering of people as the coronavirus spreads human-to-human.
It is an anxious wait for the Indians who stayed put. Most of the students stayed indoors.
Currently the city appeared normal with local metro trains, buses running and airport operational, one student told PTI over the phone.
As of now there are no restrictions on movement, going in and out of the city, he said.
So far, no Indian or foreign students have been affected, the student said.
People are venturing out with masks and following instructions like washing hands and face whenever going out, he said.
While the Indian Embassy kept a close watch through the social media WeChat and WhatsApp, the students remained in close contact keeping an eye on the evolving situation.
India has already issued a travel warning to people travelling to China. The students will await a word from the Indian Embassy to decide about leaving the city, he said.
Besides the students, the fast spreading virus has become a major worry for their parents back home, the student added.
In late 2002, many parts of China and the world were hit by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in which over 800 people had died.