While things unfolding in Madhya Pradesh has kept the media on the tenterhooks, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar away from the media glare has been quietly safeguarding the Indian citizens from coronavirus. After the daring evacuation of its citizens from the epicentre of the virus in Wuhan to rescuing its citizens from the virus infected Diamond Princess cruise to sending 15,000 kilograms of medical equipment to Wuhan through a military aircraft, India has not only safeguarded its citizens but also of the entire subcontinent.
Iran and Italy have witnessed a massive spike in coronavirus cases with the Iran Vice President and Deputy Health Minister also being infected with the novel virus. Thousands of Indians are trapped in Iran and Italy, and S Jaishankar is now focused on evacuating the Indian citizens as India has successfully evacuated 58 of its citizens from Iran.
On Tuesday, a special Air India flight brought back 58 Indians from Iran with the flight also carrying samples of 529 Indians stranded in the country to be tested. EAM Jaishankar said that the situation in Italy and Iran is “extreme” and more Indians will be evacuated from Iran in the next slot of flight.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 10, 2020
Jaishankar while addressing the Rajya Sabha said that there are around 6000 Indians in Iran, out of which 1100 are pilgrims belonging to Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Maharashtra. Additionally, there 300 are students from J&K and 1000 are fishermen from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat stranded in the Islamic Republic of Iran. India had earlier sent three flights to rescue over 700 of its citizens from China and a similar operation is being planned to evacuate its citizens from Iran.
“The initial focus is on visiting pilgrims. Many of them are in Qom, where coronavirus incidence has been strong. Their age and the nature of their residency increases the risks of exposure. As their welfare is being currently addressed, we are now focusing on Indian students,” said Jaishankar while addressing the upper house House.
The Minister further added that, “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. We are working with the Iranian authorities to operate some limited commercial flights for facilitating early return of the remaining Indians after testing them.”
With the entire country in lockdown, Italy has also been gripped with the novel coronavirus and has had to take sweeping measures in a bid to contain the virus, which doesn’t seem to be working. Recently, Indian citizens stranded in Italy had sent out an SOS message via social media to the Indian Embassy and the Indian government after several citizens continue to be stuck at Rome’s Fiumicino airport after the Indian government made it mandatory for people to provide a certificate declaring them coronavirus free.
Keeping the recent developments in mind, the Central government has sent a team of doctors to Italy to collect their test samples for coronavirus test before they are eventually brought back. A team of four doctors comprising of two public health specialists and two microbiologists from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital have already left for Rome yesterday night. Additionally, the Indian Embassy has got in touch with the 300 odd students in Italy and asked them to assemble at a designated place where their samples will be taken.
Till date, India has evacuated 948 passengers from the countries affected with the coronavirus. Exercising its soft power for the betterment of the world, out of the 948 people evacuated, 900 are Indian citizens while the rest 48 belong to countries like Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, USA, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru.
#BREAKING: India suspends All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Orgs, employment,project visas till 15 April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200GMT on 13 March 2020. Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. pic.twitter.com/ZDWlYbosOP
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) March 11, 2020
India has swung into action to battle the virus as it has suspended all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Orgs, employment, project visas till 15 April 2020. This will come into effect from 13 March 2020. The government has also advised the Indian nationals to avoid all non-essential travel abroad.
It is worth appreciating that the government, in tandem with MEA Jaishankar is working quietly but efficiently, away from media glare to protect Indian citizens amid this global COVID19 pandemic.