Coronavirus outbreak: Government focussed on bringing back Indians stuck in Italy and Iran, says S Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha

The Minister said Iran and Italy were two 'focal points' for the government as any 'worldwide activity' will only add to the panic

Press Trust of India March 11, 2020 19:13:24 IST
Coronavirus outbreak: Government focussed on bringing back Indians stuck in Italy and Iran, says S Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha
  • Government focusing on bringing Indians stuck in the two countries of Italy and Iran facing 'extreme situation'

  • Making a statement in Rajya Sabha on the Indians stranded due to restrictions placed in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India has brought back its 58 citizens from Iran

  • The Minister said Iran and Italy were two 'focal points' for the government as any 'worldwide activity' will only add to the panic

New Delhi: India will be sending a team of doctors to Italy by Thursday for testing its nationals for coronavirus to bring them back, while samples of 529 more people have been brought from Iran, the government said on Wednesday, asserting it was focusing on bringing Indians stuck in the two countries facing "extreme situation".

Making a statement in Rajya Sabha on the Indians stranded due to restrictions placed in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India has brought back its 58 citizens from Iran and the government was working with Iranian authorities to operate some limited commercial flights for facilitating early return of the remaining Indians after testing them.

 <span class=Coronavirus outbreak Government focussed on bringing back Indians stuck in Italy and Iran says S Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha" width="380" height="285" />

Representational image. PTI

The Minister said Iran and Italy were two "focal points" for the government as any "worldwide activity" will only add to the panic.

He, however, emphasised that the government remains fully committed towards the safety and welfare of Indian nationals in any part of the world as this has been the hallmark of its foreign policy.

The minister said there are over 6,000 Indians in various provinces of Iran, which include 1,100 pilgrims, nearly 300 students and about 1,000 fishermen. The others are on a longer term stay for earning livelihood and education.

As many as 529 more samples have also been brought from Iran and those who test negative will be brought back first in the next flights, he said, adding the priority was to first bring pilgrims followed by students and then the fishermen.

"The situation in Italy is now emerging a cause of great concern. I would like share with members that steps in this regard have already been initiated," the Minister said.

While about 90 countries have reported coronavirus cases, he said, "We have to focus, we have to prioritise, we have to look at very extreme situations. At the moment after China and Diamond Princess (cruise ship) issue, Iran is an extreme situation. Italy is an extreme situation."

Detailing steps being taken by the government to bring back Indians from COVID-19 affected nations, he also apprised the House that both the countries have stretched their resources in dealing the situation post spread of the coronavirus .

"The House will surely appreciate that few other nations have done what we have with respect to the COVID -19.

"The global coronavirus situation is being monitored on a continuous basis by a Group of Secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary and a Group of Ministers, chaired by Minister of Health and Family Welfare," Jaishankar said.

Besides taking steps to check the spread of the virus in the country, the government has ensured that e-visas and visa on arrival are temporarily suspended in certain cases.

Precautionary measures are also being taken on all land borders as well as air and sea entry points.

Giving details regarding Iran, Jaishankar said over the last few days, the government has been making focused efforts for the safe return of the stranded Indians.

Given the scale of COVID-19 infection and its pressure on Irans own resources, a team of six Indian health officials has been deputed to Iran in order to set up testing and sampling facilities there, he said.

He said the first batch of 108 samples were received in India on 7 March.

"These were tested and 58 Indian pilgrims (25 men, 31 women and 2 children), who tested negative, were repatriated in special IAF C-17 flight on 10 March," he said.

Also 529 more samples were brought on that flight and were being tested in National Institute of Virology, Pune.

"Whoever tests negative...will be on the next lot of flights which will come in. Our effort has been by increasing number of medical personnel to test as many people as quickly we can.

"Once we are through with the pilgrims, we will focus on the students because they are really in a very difficult position," he said.

The minister said the fishermen live in southern Iran where coronavirus incidence is not as strong as in cities like Quom and Tehran.

"But we are looking at fishermen also," he said.

Jaishankar, who had visited Srinagar and met the parents of some of the students in Iran, said that people should also understand that "this is very difficult time in Iran. The Iranian system is itself struggling".

Regarding Indians in Italy, Jaishankar said an advisory was issued regarding 'COVID free' certificates because of spread of coronavirus is quite strong there.

"We wanted everybody boarding a flight (to India) to have a COVID free certificate. It has been difficult to get that in Italy because Italian system is busy treating patients in Italy.

"We are hoping by tomorrow to fly in a medical team to Italy just as we have flown in to Iran. We will do testing of those people and try to put them on very early flight thereafter," he said.

Follow LIVE updates on coronavirus Outbreak

The Minister said Iran and Italy were two "focal point" for the government as any "worldwide activity" will only add to the panic.

"I think its important that we focus on very specific parts.

"Like in China we basically did Wuhan. We did not do other places in China, they didnt require it. Similarly in Italy we are focusing on one or two important places.

"In Iran also it is mainly Qom and Tehran. Its a very focused intervention. It is not a general intervention," he said while replying to queries raised by MPs.

Iran on Wednesday reported 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day toll since it announced the first deaths from the outbreak. There are about 9,000 confirmed cases in Iran.

Infections in Italy topped the 10,000 mark, the second worst affected country after China. More than 630 people have already died.

Updated Date:

also read

India reports 1.14 lakh new COVID-19 cases today; single-day tally lowest in 60 days, says Centre
India

India reports 1.14 lakh new COVID-19 cases today; single-day tally lowest in 60 days, says Centre

The toll climbed to 3,46,759 with 2,677 new deaths, which is the lowest figure after 42 days. The the active cases dropped below 15 lakh

Coronavirus News Updates: Maharashtra's COVID-19 toll tops one lakh with 233 fresh deaths; state sees 12,557 new cases
India

Coronavirus News Updates: Maharashtra's COVID-19 toll tops one lakh with 233 fresh deaths; state sees 12,557 new cases

Coronavirus News Updates: The recovery rate is now 95.05 percent and the fatality rate is 1.72 percent and there are 1,85,527 active cases

Venice's cruise ships restart for first time since pandemic, spark environmental protests
World

Venice's cruise ships restart for first time since pandemic, spark environmental protests

A group of activists is demanding that Italian cultural and Venice port officials immediately ban ships from the lagoon, and is threatening legal action