COVID-19: Indian students in Italy to return after screening

Indian students in Italy will be brought back home after screening for Covid 19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in the Lok Sabha on March 12. He said that a medical team is being sent there for screening and collecting samples from the Indian nationals. “The situation in Italy is emerging as a cause of great concern. I would like to share with the Hon’ble Members that steps in this regard have already been initiated. It has been decided to make provision for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy and collect samples for testing,” he said.

Referring to Iran, he said that the India’s embassy in Tehran and the consulates in Bandar Abbas and Zahidan have reached out to the Indian nationals to ascertain their welfare, while an advisory was issued, asking them to observe appropriate precautions. Emergency contact details of the Indian mission were put out, he said.

There are over 6000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran. These include around 1100 pilgrims, mainly from Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Maharashtra, some 300 students, and around 1000 fishermen from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. As a precautionary measure, the government had temporarily suspended direct flights between India and Iran since February 27.

The minister said that the government’s initial focus is on the visiting pilgrims that are mainly located in Qom, where the coronavirus incidences have been high. “As their welfare is being currently addressed, we are now focusing on the Indian students. Many of them are studying medicine and are fully aware of the precautions to be taken in this difficult situation,” he said.

“We continue to collect more samples in Tehran and our endeavor is to ensure the earliest possible return of our nationals after appropriate testing and screening. Our Embassy, with cooperation of the Iranian authorities is making arrangements for medical care and monitoring of those who have tested positive,” he added.

India is monitoring the global coronavirus situation on a daily basis by a team headed by cabinet secretary and a group of ministers (GoM). On March 9, the government had ordered more stringent travel measures after all the cases in India found to have come directly from those who have a travel history. “In doing so, we are clear that we will do whatever must be done to ensure that the spread is restricted and the health security is ensured,” Jaishankar said.

  1. These measures, which came into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13 include:
  2. – All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15, 2020.
  3. – Visa free travel facility granted to OCI card holders has also been kept in abeyance till April 15, 2020.
  4. – All travelers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
  5. – Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission.
  6. – Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. On their return, they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
  7. – International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities. These will be notified separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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