Press Trust of india

Govt focusing on bringing back Indians from Coronavirus-hit Italy, Iran: EAM

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New Delhi, Mar 11 :  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.

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.

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