Amidst the rise in the Coronavirus cases in India which have shot up to 73, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke about the measures taken by the Foreign Ministry in ensuring the safe return of the Indian nationals that were stranded abroad due to the novel disease.
"As the House would have noticed, where specific interventions are required - as in the case of Wuhan in China, the Diamond Princess crew in Japan or now the pilgrims in Iran, we will take necessary action. But these are exceptional situations that require an exceptional response. At this time, travel in itself is not recommended as it only heightens risks," said EAM Jaishankar.
Jaishankar spoke about how the main focus of evacuation of nearly 6,000 Indians in Iran would be on Indian pilgrims followed by Indian students who have gone to the country to study medicine. He also revealed that about 1,000 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Gujarat and others were on longer-term stay visas in Iran for pursuing their livelihood. "Direct flights between India and Iran stand suspended. As per initial samples, 229 out of 529 samples of Indians stranded in Iran have tested negative for coronavirus," he said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in Lok Sabha on #Coronavirus: As per available information there are about 6000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran, including 1100 pilgrims mainly from Ladakh, J&K and Maharashtra, nearly 300 students primarily from J&K... (1/2) pic.twitter.com/0crwwIdDTr— ANI (@ANI) March 12, 2020
"There are operational constraints in evacuating Indians as the Iranian system is strict. We will continue to track welfare of all Indians stranded in Iran. We appreciate their corporation. We will do whatever we must to check the spread of coronavirus."
He also spoke about the updated visa and travel guidelines stating that in terms of other countries, India was ahead on the curve. In a move to contain the rapid spread of Coronavirus cases in the country, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare yesterday issued an advisory stating that all existing visas, barring diplomatic, UN/International Organisations, employment and project visas, will stand suspended till April 15, 2020. This move will come into effect from 1200 GMT March 13, 2020, at the port of departure.
The EAM also announced that all incoming travellers including Indian nationals having visited China, Italy, Iran, Korea, Germany, France, Spain after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic after the deadly virus spread to 114 countries, resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 people worldwide. Taking to Twitter, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom finally declared the disease as a global pandemic, calling all nations to get very serious over the issue and take all necessary measures to contain the virus from spreading at this rate.