MEA suggests Indians abroad to stay there till COVID-19

Coronavirus: India asks its nationals abroad to avoid return till COVID-19 subsides

India on Thursday asked its nationals, who are currently on foreign visits, to stay put wherever they are – if possible, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Even as India is preparing to facilitate return of its citizens from Iran and Italy, the worst COVID-19 affected countries outside China, it advised its nationals to avoid non-essential foreign tours, as they could be quarantined at least for 14 days on their return.

“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,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in the Lok Sabha.

He was making a statement on the measures taken by the government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Government's immediate concern is to contain and control coronavirus,” Dammu Ravi, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, said. “There is no need to panic. We advise Indians to stay put wherever they are and only travel under compelling reasons.”

Ravi was recently assigned to coordinate on behalf of the MEA with other ministries of the government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“On February 20, 63,200 Indians came, while on March 10, 43,900 came (to India from abroad). So, the number is coming down and we hope the number will come down further with these advisories and measures,” Anil Malik, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, said. He was responding to a query if the government could set up so many quarantine facilities to accommodate all Indians returning to the country from abroad.

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New Delhi on Wednesday suspended till April 15 all existing visas issued to the foreign nationals for visit to India, except the ones issued to the diplomats, officials and representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations as well as to people seeking to come for employment or for participating in any project.

The visa-free travel facility granted to people having “Overseas Citizen of India” or OCI cards has also been kept in abeyance till April 15. All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 would be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days, Jaishankar said in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. “Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission.”

The Government is currently focusing on evacuation of Indian citizens from Iran and Italy.

“To assure all that our efforts (are) ongoing. Arrangements made for another group of 120 stranded pilgrims to leave for India tomorrow (Friday). A third flight is being prepared and is scheduled for departure Saturday,” Dhamu Gaddam, India's ambassador to Iran, posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Earlier, an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 “Globemaster” aircraft brought back home 58 Indian pilgrims from the Persian Gulf Nation on Tuesday. They were evacuated only after they were tested negative for Covid-19.

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