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Indians testing negative to be evacuated first: MEA

Priority right now is to contain and control the virus, says MEA

Published: 13th March 2020 02:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2020 12:30 PM   |  A+A-

Passengers wearing protective masks as a precautionary measure against coronavirus at the Mumbai airport on Thursday | Pti

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday spelt out its action plan for possible evacuations of Indian nationals from countries which have been in the grip of the deadly coronavirus.
Newly appointed coordinator for COVID-19 in the ministry Dammu Ravi said the government’s priority right now is to contain and control the virus.

“One needs to understand that all Indian nationals will not be coming back. A team will be sent to Italy and after the tests, those whose results are negative would be brought back,” he said and added that the same procedure would be followed for countries like Iran. Speaking about the testing facilities being set up in affected countries, Ravi said the Indian mission would be the guiding body. “The Indian missions will help the visiting teams by marking areas with a heavy Indian population. The testing facilities will also be set up in accordance with this information so as to facilitate the streamlined flow of test,” the additional secretary said.

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Meanwhile, Indian embassy officials in Italy met the stranded students, assured them of all assistance and briefed them about the measures that the government was taking to help them. The MEA said Indians returning from countries like Italy and South Korea must have a certificate to prove that they have tested negative for the virus. “This will be helpful as it will be easier to let them into the country,” he said. However, Ravi said the general advise for Indians who are abroad was to stay put and avoid travel, unless absolutely necessary.

Also, according to the advisory issued by the Bureau of Immigration, Indians wanting to return and have had a history of travel to seven countries — China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, France and Germany — on or after February 15 would be quarantined for a period of 14 days. Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Anil Malik said putting out timely advisories has been working as fewer Indian nationals are returning. “On February 20, a total of 63,200 Indian nationals returned from abroad but the number came down to 42,900 on March 10. We expect the numbers to come down further,” Malik said.

What is the status of Indian visas?
All existing visas issued to nationals of any country except those issued to diplomats, officials, UN/International organizations, employment, project visas stand suspended till April 15.

When will the suspension come into effect?
The suspension of the visas will be in effect from midnight on March 12.

Will the visas of foreigners already in India be suspended?
No. The visas will be valid. Foreign nationals have been advised to contact nearest embassy to extend/renew their visa.

What is the status of OCI cardholders who can avail visa-free travel?
The visa-free travel on OCI has been suspended till April 15. The suspension will come into effect at midnight on March 12.

What is the status of travellers, including Indians, wanting to enter India?
All travellers who have visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany on or after February 15 will be quarantined for a 14-day period. Those coming from Italy and South Korea will have to produce COVID negative certificates upon arrival in India.

No ban on foreigners
The government on Thursday informed Lok Sabha that India has not imposed a total ban on the entry of foreign nationals as part of efforts to check COVID spread

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