376 Indian students in Italy who tested negative for Covid-19 to be brought back

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 19, 2020

India supplying masks, gloves to Maldives, Bhutan; examining requests of other SAARC nations

Of the 380 swab samples collected of Indian students stranded in Italy, four have tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID19) while as many as 376 are negative and can be brought back to India, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said.

Also, Dammu Ravi, Additional Secretary, MEA, confirmed that the first Covid-19 death of an Indian abroad was confirmed in Iran. Officials said that while 201 Indians have been evacuated from Iran including students and pilgrims, 255 others who have been tested positive will not be evacuated.

Officials have also said that an Air India - 787 dreamliner with a capacity of 236 seats will be flown to Rome on March 21 for evacuating those stranded Indians who have tested negative.

India is also following up on promises made to SAARC nations last Sunday for extending help in fighting the virus and has already despatched consignments of masks, gloves and disinfectants to Maldives and Bhutan, said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

Requests for about $1 million worth of items to fight coronavirus have been made by SAARC nations and those made by countries other than Maldives and Bhutan are at various levels of processing by the government, Kumar said.

The MEA also advised Indians who are abroad to “stay put wherever they are’’ if they are not at the epicentre of the virus. “Our priority should be on containing the virus. We need to work together to control the situation. The disease is spreading but people are also recovering. We should remain hopeful and unitedly fight this pandemic,” Ravi said.

The MEA Covid Control Room and dedicated helpline are being strengthened to respond to specific queries from specific countries, Kumar said.

Answering questions on follow-up to the meeting of Saarc nations initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kumar said that requests for Rapid Response Team for meeting coronavirus emergencies made by Maldives and Nepal were being examined.

A video conference of health officials from SAARC nations on online training for health professionals was also likely to take place soon, he added.

Work on the Covid-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC nations had also begun, Kumar said. The Prime Minister had proposed setting up the fund in the SAARC leaders meeting last Sunday and had said that India would make an initial contribution of $10 million to it.

Because of travel restrictions imposed by the government, the number of foreign nationals arriving in India on March 18 dropped to 1,245 from 33,000 foreign visitors who arrived on February 20. The number of Indians arriving from a foreign destination, too, declined to 41,136 on March 19 from 63,275 on February 20.

Published on March 19, 2020

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