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MEA to bring back those testing negative for COVID-19 first, requests Indians abroad to stay put

The comments were made by MEA Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi who has been appointed as the nodal officer to coordinate efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Published: 12th March 2020 11:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th March 2020 11:36 PM   |  A+A-

Passengers wear masks as preventive against coronavirus

Passengers wear masks as preventive against coronavirus (Photo | Martin Louis, EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Amid the government's plan to evacuate Indians in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the External Affairs Ministry on Thursday said that an evacuation does not mean bringing back everybody and people who test negative for the infection will be brought back first.

It also asked the citizens in other countries to stay put.

The comments were made by MEA Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi who has been appointed as the nodal officer to coordinate efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Addressing a press briefing, Ravi said, "Rome and Milan are two areas where India's medical team is likely to go but I don't have confirmation on it so it will be decided by ambassadors." MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said a medical team will be reaching Italy on Friday morning and they will be looking into issues faced by Indian students in getting negative (coronavirus) certificates.

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Tests will be conducted and those who test negative will be issued certificates so they can board commercial flights.

He said that India has received requests from Bhutan, Maldives, Iran and Italy for assistance with surgical masks and protective gears.

"We are processing request from Bhutan, Maldives, Iran and Italy. They are under different stages of processing," Kumar said.

Anil Malik, a Home Ministry official also present at the briefing said that in the wake of coronavirus scare, the number of people coming to India dropped by 40 per cent in last 20 days and the number will come down further.

He requested Indians abroad to avoid non-essential travel to India "On February 20, 63,200 Indians came while on March 10, 43,900 came so the number is coming down and we hope the number will come down further with these advisories and measures," Malik said.

Ravi, responding to a question, said evacuation does not mean bringing back everybody as it asked the citizens in other countries to stay put.

"We have to be clear that evacuation does not mean that we are trying to bring everybody. We need to understand that people who are not contaminated will be first brought in," Ravi said.

"We will have a sample testing medical team going there. Tomorrow a team will go and get the samples. Samples will be coming through various sources by previous flights. These are being tested in India and those who are negative cases will be brought in. In case of Italy, a medical team will go there.

"In Iran a medical team is already stationed and the samples are coming in on regular basis and being tested and then we take measures on how to bring them back and that is a situation which evolves on daily basis," he said.

Ravi advised that wherever there are Indians abroad they should stay put.

"Our advice is that wherever the Indians are stay put because one will never know if you are carrying the symptoms of it because it might become prominent after a number of days, so it advisable that wherever our people are stay put and only travel if they have compelling reasons," he said.

He also urged Indians abroad to take the COVID test locally to the extent possible so that on arrival it would be easier for airport authorities to let them in.

Responding to a question on the economic cost of coronavirus, Ravi said it will be subsequently assessed.

"Life is more important at this point. An issue of this magnitude there will be cost but how much we assess is not at this point relevant. There will be cost but how much it will be we have to subsequently assess," he said.

He said the immediate concern of the government is to contain and control the infection.

"There is no need to panic the situation is quite under control. The government is attaching highest importance to this issue. We need to be extremely cautious and take safety measures. It is a collective endeavour as we take effort to fight the disease," he said.

Responding to questions about IPL and other sporting events, Ravi said the government's advice would be "not do it at this time but if the organisers want to go ahead, it is their decision".

"We are assessing a lot of requests of this nature of sports events that have been held in India and some thing related to mega event already being planned. It is for the organisers to decide if they want to go ahead with it or not," Ravi said during a press briefing.

The coronavirus outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, has led to more than 4,000 deaths globally.

The government on Wednesday suspended all visas, barring a few categories like diplomatic and employment, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus as cases across India rose to more than 70.

The government said starting from Friday, three back-to-back evacuations will be made to bring back Indians from Iran.

On Tuesday, 58 Indian students were brought back from the country.

Moreover, 83 evacuees from Italy who arrived in India on Wednesday have been housed at the Manesar quarantine facility.

All patients in hospitals are being treated and reported to be stable, officials said.

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