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Transcript of Special Media Briefing on COVID- 19 (March 19, 2020)

March 20, 2020

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar : Friends, Namaskar! Good Afternoon! and I welcome you to this special briefing on COVID-19 from the perspective of Ministry of External Affairs and also from the perspective of so many of the Indians and OCI card holders who are abroad. I have with me the additional secretary and the special coordinator for COVID-19, Shri Dammu Ravi, I also have Mr. Dinesh Adhikari who is the Deputy Director at Bureau of Emigration. We will start with the initial remarks by the Additional Secretary and after that we will take questions from all of you. Sir, the floor is yours.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: Thank you Raveesh. Good afternoon to all of you! As a matter of giving you a slight update since last we met. Yah! I would like to give a slight overview of what happened since the last we met. So, one, you all are aware. that Prime Minister held a video conferencing with the leaders of SAARC countries, where few initiatives announced. The Ministry of External Affairs in close consultation with the other ministries, concerned ministries are working towards the implementation, some of which have already been implemented and ongoing. Few travel advisories have been issued and few evacuation missions were carried out, both in Iran and Italy successfully. The group of secretaries are reviewing it on a daily basis, the situation around the world and the group of ministers are taking decisions from time to time and Prime Minister is monitoring the developments on a regular basis. It is all of Government effort to control and contain this pandemic. As you all are aware that Ministry of External Affairs has set up a COVID control room with Helplines, with dedicated Helplines, 24X7. A team of officers are interested to taking this calls and responding to the concerns that are being raised by Indians, all over the world on a regular basis, on a timely basis. The concerned ministries also have the helplines and they are responding to the queries. Further, the Ministry of External Affairs is further briefing up, strengthen the COVID control room to respond to specific queries coming from specific countries. So, just to mention to you that the kind of attention that we are giving to this crisis. Thank you!

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I now open the floor to question... you have some announcement to make?

Shri. Dinesh Adhikari: I would like to inform that, there is a 24X7 Helpline of the BOI also as ...earlier also by one of my senior colleagues in the earlier press brief. Since functioned since 17th evening and till now we have had about more than 1355 calls in that and about 522 emails which have been replied by our call centre since 17th evening till now. They are basically from all the foreigners who are here in India or who are abroad and concerned about their wards or kith and kin here in India. Thank you Sir.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Thank you! I open the floor to questions.

Question (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation): Sir, can you please tell in detail about how many people are working in the COVID cell, how many calls are being received by you? and what are the efforts you are putting up to strengthen it? What efforts are being made to provide food to the students stranded up at the Philippines, Manila airport? Or in what way we are trying to reach the people in distress, pl. tell in detail.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I thought you had already announced it. But anyways I'll give you the details of Helplines and emails once again. To answer your first question, currently in the MEA control room or COVID control room, we are about 25-30 people working and then these are in teams, so in shifts. So we have 24X7 manning facility which is like, you have 8 hours, 8 hours shift then we are now going to further strengthen to larger groups of specific countries and they will be further briefed up tomorrow to strengthen this team and we will have a lot more specific stand. The number of queries that are coming in that is one of your questions, we are getting on the emails about 400 or so and telephone calls about 600s, about 1000 calls are coming in a day which we are promptly replying to.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
See, we had announced the Helpline numbers including the email available, read it out. We have a toll free number which is 1800118797 and there are three landline numbers- 01123012113; 23014104 and 23017905. We have a Fax number- 01123018158 and the email id is -

Question: Sir you talked about the follow-ups on those SAARC discussions that had happened. Sir, can you elaborate on what kind of follow-up is happening since you have one week to start working on that. Just little bit of elaboration on that.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
You see, a crisis of this magnitude, you know, it does not recognize borders. And it also requires a very coordinated response, it requires a response where you have to cooperate at the regional and global levels. Now it was in this spirit that the Prime Minister decided to take the initiative of getting all the SAARC leaders together. To closely cooperate how to address the pandemic which was, you know unfolding in this region and during that video conference, you are aware that Prime Minister announced several proposals. And I can announce you today that we are moving very fast on most of these proposals and announcements. On the emergency fund, this is already up and running. We have received many requests from other SAARC countries for assistance in the form of masks, in the form of shoe covers, in the form of gloves, disinfectants and other items. the quantum of assistance which has been requested so far. It has already crossed one million dollar. Supplies to Bhutan and Maldives, they have already been dispatched, they have already been effected and other requests, requests from other SAARC countries, they are on their various stages of process. On the rapid response team, we have received informal requests from Maldives and Nepal. This is being followed up on the health best practices and online training, a video conference is being scheduled in the next few days among the health professionals of all SAARC countries. The best practices being followed by the professionals, the health professionals in these countries will also be discussed. Action on other elements of the announcements, they have all already been initiated by the respective ministries in this regard.

I think you had to add something on to this?

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I think we need to keep it in mind that a statement initiated by the Prime Minister takes the top priority in terms of implementation. So, lot of it has been operationalized. Particularly the COVID emergency fund and the Prime Minister has also emphasized that you know, a successful cooperation in fighting this disease in SAARC region can be a good example for other parts of the world. I think this is the time that we need to put our energies together and all countries within the region are able to come together to fight this disease in a very coordinated, cooperated way. That's the underlining punch. So, I think the Foreign Secretaries subsequently will be having video conferencing to take it further and the health experts too later this month and also planning to have a video conferencing to take it forward, specific elements.

Question: (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation) Sir, the Indian Prime Minister took a large initiative for the SAARC, all the SAARC member countries welcomed the initiative but Pakistan misutilized this platform. They tried to raise the Kashmir issue, how India has taken this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar (Answered in Hindi, approximate translation): First of all I will explain in hindi what I have read out. For a crisis of this magnitude regional and global cooperation are very much necessary. You are also aware that in these type of crisis, borders become meaningless, the virus can move from here to there and in a good spirit our Prime Minister took a decision to bring all the SAARC member countries on a common platform and how to jointly address this pandemic through discussions. You must have seen the video and must have seen that we have made lot of announcements from our side and progress is quite fast on them. If we talk about the emergency fund, then it is already there in place and under that we have received lot many requests from SAARC member countries and the amount of the requests have already crossed one million dollar mark. The requests are for masks, for gloves, for disinfectant, for shoe covers etc. All these requests are under consideration and are at different stages of process. As far as the requests from Bhutan and Maldives are considered, they have been already fulfilled. Remaining are under process. As far as the announcement of Rapid response team is concerned, I want to inform you that we have received informal requests from Maldives and Nepal, it is being followed up.There was an announcement made on health best practises and online training. In next few days a video conference is scheduled to be held wherein the health professionals from SAARC countries will be participating. We will make an announcement in this regard in coming days and health professionals will discuss the health best practices being followed in SAARC countries.On the remaining action points the relevant Ministries have already started taking action. Action has been initiated on each and every point and we will see the results in the coming days.

Question : Inaudible.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: (Answered in Hindi, approximate translation) : See, as far as Pakistan is concerned, this platform we thought will be used to bring all the countries of this region on a common platform. The purpose was as to how to address the pandemic. This was not a political platform but rather a humanitarian platform which Pakistan misused it.

Question: Raveesh, on corona diplomacy building on the success of the SAARC initiative, are we also planning such initiatives focused on other plurilateral, multilateral groupings and also beside the SAARC region have we received requests from other countries outside this region for help of any kind? Thank you.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I think, its important to perhaps to understand that at a time when many countries, provinces are in a lock down situation, some sort of virtual interaction becomes inevitable and would be useful. In that context I'm sure many countries would be exploring that possibility to have interactions with leaders around the world how they are implementing, they are dealing with the situation and what kind of initiative they are taking to control and contain this. So, its very natural, ideas are coming up and we need to see how far we can take that forward. We'll be working on that. There have been some ideas thrown. There have been interactions, ideas coming up to the Ministry of External Affairs but nothing concrete at this stage. We'll have to see because I think around the world the people and the leaders are quite perturbed concerned about tackling the situation at this point of time, so as and when this initiatives comeup I think we should there will be some due consideration for such ideas.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Manish, on the G-20 you must have seen the statement which has been put up by Saudi Arabia which is the Chair of the G-20, you know our decision went to schedule what is the agenda, who all will participate, the format etc. That is something which the Chair will decide, you know and you are aware and familiar with the conversation which Prime Minister had with the Chair couple of days back.

Question: One was on the situation of overseas citizens of India. Most countries around the world have put out travel restrictions saying that their citizens as well as permanent residents can return. On the other hand India stopped the entry of all OCIs because it has put in abeyance their rights to return, many of those OCIs actually live in India permanent residents in India, I was wondering if there is any rethink on bringing them back. The second question I really had was about Japan. On March 10th Japan was part of the countries from which there were travel restrictions, on March 11th this was lifted, I just wanted to know why. Thank you.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: Thank you Ma'am. I think if you analyze the gravity of the situation, you will understand that it is not advisable for people to move from one region to another region. So you have to see that in the context of the gravity of the crisis in all over the world. So, and again, we need to understand that these restrictions are temporary in nature. So, one should not panic first. So if there were, if let’s say Indian who are held up in some places, our advices would be stay put, because ideally in such a situation they should be able to take care locally with whatever resources they have. And also I think our missions or ambassadors are in the fore front to supporting these stranded Indians, wherever they are they are reaching out to them and addressing their concerns. And to extend possible we are doing our best. Now, your second question on why Japan is taking out of the list, I think we be this is the development has been reboot from time to time in terms of how countries are tackling their own situations. And going by the number of the way they have tackled the numbers coming down is one indication that yes you could take it out. That was not the consideration when the travel advisory was issued subsequently that took off took out Japan from the list. Yeah. Thank you!

Question: Just two questions you know, particularly with regards to Iran. Because so many reports have been coming in. What are the evacuation SOPs are going to be like? Will Indians who have tested positive are going to be evacuated at some stage, because that country really is facing a huge crisis at this point of time, the scary reports, even some reports suggesting that the Indian mission was preparing for evacuate itself. And we has India, Raveesh, consider taken a considered view of the American laid economic sanctions of Iran and what kind of impact are they having in Iran dealing with the pandemic at the moment?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
See, all the questions are related. Just hold on.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: The situation in Iran as you all are aware actually it's very very severe situation. The the disease has widespread. It has extensively gone onto new the regions of Iran. So we have we have we're assessing that situation and and taking into consideration what should be our proper response, properly response in that. So we have, for example, Indians were stranded there. The pilgrims, the students, both the negative tested. Negatively results have come in their favor. And some are positive and have send it in the past also. These are some positive cases. Now since the last week or so, we have evacuated almost the total number since the evacuation started in Iran, is about five hundred ninety. That's the number that we have. So it is extraordinary measure and the step that was taken but on the positive, what we are doing about that? I think let me assure you again that our ambassador and the mission is completely in control of the situation. They are in cooperation and the assistance of the Government of Iran. They have now been very well taken care. They have been segregated, they have been assisted And we believe that in times to come they will improve, they will recover fully and we should be able to bring them back. So that's our objective. So in terms of the US sanctions and Iran, I think that's a bilateral issue between the two countries. And I don't want to comment on such a sensitive matter. We should leave it at that. Thank you!

Sir, there was stock of a plane going to Rome to pick a lot of Indians who were stranded there. When is that likely to happen?

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I know Italy is another country, which is very badly affected, severely affected by the disease. And you are quite aware of the lockdown situation within Italy. Both inter provision lockdowns have happened. So, which made it extremely difficult for even Indians to be able to take any support from the missions or be able to be evacuated. But despite these challenging circumstances we’ve been able to evacuate Indians from Milan and now the next batch we are planning over this weekend. We have got the samples, they have been tested, lot fortunately large number of them are negatives. So those logistic details are being worked out the enclosed consultation with the with the Ministry of Civil Aviation. So details of which will you will know shortly. Thank you!

Question: The question basically is you know, the people in KOM, where the reports are coming in about they are about hundred and seventy so odd positive is what we have heard from their families. And there was some reports that they hadn't been segregated from the family members who are negative in the test done. Is there's a fear that they could be more people who are positive now? And we also heard from at least two other groups of Indians one in Kish Island and one another they said when they were in Erthestan who hadn't been able to access to the mission either for testing or for travel. You know, these isolated groups is anything being done about them. Thank you!

Question: Sir, talking of International cooperation, are we working on some joint mathematical model with the countries like the US or Germany, so that we can more effectively put our energies together? And second, are we taking some lessons from China which claims that the number of cases has gone down on and no new case has been reported?

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I'm not sure if I got everything right, but I will in terms of questions, but I'll take Iran's situation first. You mentioned about whether there was any mix up between the negatives and the positives. But let me assure you again that adequate care was taken to separate the two. And we know the dangers of having this kind of a mix. But our mission has done their best to separate. And subsequently we were able to successfully separate the two and put them in proper medical conditions in Iran despite the challenges that we are facing. The feedback we are getting from the mission or ambassador is that things are now quite controlled and they are recovering, that’s the message we’re getting; so, there’s no need to panic on that friend. Now in terms of Kish Island, now this is a very, if you look at the geography of Iran and you will se Kish island is quite isolated from, it’s an island in down Iraq, southern part of Iran. Now there has been some kind of difficulties accessing the region because of this inter-provincial lockdown in Iran itself. So, it’s one is the distance and the other is the difficulty of the lockdown situation there; so, which made it difficult to access that places for some time. But now, the mission has reached out to them, some provisions have been provided for them to assist. So, we understand the feedback we are getting, they are under good support in care of the mission and things are getting normal. China, so, in terms of China, yes, my view that the best practices around the world, we should be always studying and see if they are, they have been helpful in any country, we should also see whether, to what extent we can introduce in our situation. Although I would say that each region or country has its own challenges but it’s important to study them and see to what extent they are practically implementable in our country. I think. This is under study and these have been discussed in the review group and the group of secretaries and the then we are trying to bring out certain kind of guidelines on that as well. Yes, best practices around the world are definitely worthwhile studying.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: It is a just to come to your question, you see, the missions across, our Indian missions across the world and wherever you have this pandemic quite widespread, we are actually functioning under tremendous local challenges. Local challenges, you know, because the eco system under which you operate is not under your control. You have restrictions in terms of travel, you have restrictions in terms of medical facilities and therefore, the people who are right at the front, you know, they are trying their best to be of help. You know, in terms of providing them accommodation, in terms of arranging food in a long run situation. So, there are challenges. For example, you see, in the Kish island, let me share with you, that when it was not possible for the mission officials to reach the island, we got in touch with a local supplier, you see, who could supply provisions to the Indians, you see, they are mainly fishermen and that arrangement has been working really well. So, wherever you see, I think it has to be kept in mind that the mission officials who are right at the forefront, they are operating under some real complex environment. You see, and they also have to follow the local guidelines and advisories which are in place and which gets reviewed from time to time.

Just wondering, can you spell out the protocol, you know, every step of the protocol that is involved in getting on to one of these evacuation flights. So far it’s sounding a bit arbitrary, there are some people who are getting on it, some people are not. Some countries, they are being told to get a medical certificate. But these countries are not issuing the certificates, so these certificate does not exist. But I also understand the missions are also doing some sort of testing. What is the criteria involved to even get yourself tested, either by the countries or the missions? Once you get tested, what is the criteria involved in stepping foot on the Indian evacuation flights? How is it that some people are getting on the flight, some people are not?

Question: ..........students evacuations happening. You know, so many universities in Europe that us under lockdown. They have also shut down. So, what is your recipe in terms of evacuation of students who are stuck?

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi:
The SOPs, the medical certificate, the evacuation, let me tell you again it is not easy to get medical certificate, we know this. Any countries don’t do medical certificate on people unless they see symptoms there and we have seen this in Europe and in many other countries. So, how do you do this? You will have to target people in your nationals who have this difficulty, we have been telling them if you can get certificate that’s the best, that’s the best option. Now you can’t do, obviously you don’t have control over this, those countries. You have to fall back on the local authorities and request them for support and help. Now, missions and ambassadors have been trying their best to get that support. Now, let’s come to the students, we consider students are the most important priority category because for variety of reasons. One is that the local accommodations, universities, educational institutions are closed down. So, they are at difficult terrain and how do you bring them back. So, a medical test where where that were conducted for example, in Rome; the missions actually had opened up entire building the to do the testing at the mission. So, we were able to do and ambassador informed a lot of the students around to come to the mission to get the test done. Milan we tried to but unfortunately in case of Milan the whole Milan, whole Milan was lockdown. So, no medical team could go to Milan to be able to do test on the students and find out what is status of each of the case and be able to bring them back. So, that’s a specific situation one has to understand but definitely students are our priority and other Indian nationals too, we had to the extent possible they should be approaching the missions and take guidance and stay put at that place, because it is not in anyone’s interest, not even their interest, not even near and dear ones and to come back and then thinking that you know it is a safe environment in some other place. So, we have to be very sensitive in how you convey this message. So, we believe that it is a temporary situation, we will overcome this, collectively we all will be able to fight it if we cooperate. That should be the spirit. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
No, you see, you know there is a, you are talking about the protocol, I think it is important for you to first go through all the advisories we have issued. No, I mean Covid nineteen certificate, is not the requirement for all the countries and it is very clearly specified from which countries these requirement are needed. Now, what happens you know, if you decide to evacuate Indian students from Italy, first the way we did it in Wuhan, you first ascertain the request or interest? Not everybody maybe interested in going. So, you start compiling data, you put it out in the public domain, you start contacting the students, then you build up a database that there are so many students who would be willing to be brought back to India. Then comes the testing part. If you have testing facilities available locally then the testing is done, if not like in case of Italy, you know we sent a medical team there. The medical team took the swab tests of all the Indian students who had indicated their interest in coming back. Now based on the result, those who have been tested negative, they will be brought back. If it one flight, if it is two flight but anybody who has been tested negative and as the AS mentioned, that we have to prioritise, I mean where do you bring the students from, as we have been kind of sharing from the beginning, appealing from the beginning that is best that they stay put wherever they are. If they are not in a epicentre they should stay wherever they are. And only people who are directly affected, where we realise that the situation is getting out of hand then we try to bring them in.

Question: Sir, about Italy you said that a large number are tested negative, my question is there is any confirmed positive cases of an Indian in Italy?

: Sir, Italy is now going to touch almost three thousand deaths, it’s only second to China. Now what are the kind of numbers we are looking at Indian citizens in Italy who could be nearing evacuation?

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: I will answer the first question first. See, in terms of the tests, the last test, when the medical team went, over a period of time of three days they brought about three eighty samples, now these have been tested out of which three seventy-six are negative and only four have turned out to be positive. So then you know accordingly the operations were bringing them back, will be initiated over the weekend. But I think you must keep in mind that it’s not anymore the rescue mission that are important that we need to focus on. We need to focus on containing the spreading of this disease. That should be our priority. So, wherever Indians are, the first advice, and primary advice it should be they should stay put where they are. We need to work together to control the situation. And I, we believe that wherever they are, they are safe. And if they are taking care of themselves, they are taking the advice of the mission, the local Indian community’s support they will be safe and they will even the positive cases, we are hopeful, they will recover. Now in the specific case of Italy, I know that everyone is aware that the disease is spreading fast but there is also recovery. A lot of people are also recovering. So, depending on age, depending on the level of resistance and immunity levels that people have. So, there are recovery phases. So, we should remain hopeful given the magnitude of the crisis that is there and unitedly fight this enemy.

Question: I just want to know if there is any plan or discussion about grounding all international flights in and out of India. Is there something you have talked about?

Question: As of now, it is prohibited for people to travel to India from the ….be it foreigners, be it Indians when deciding to allow people again to come back to travel to India from one of these countries. Will it be decided on a country by country basis or as a….zone block?

Deputy Director, BI, Shri Dinesh Adhikari: Ma’am the restrictions were for the passengers from EU, ETFA, Turkey and UK as far as you are concerned, which were issued day before yesterday. So, what else would you like to know on this? Yes, we decided EU as a block and ETFA as a block.

Question: On a country by country basis in Europe or would you decide it when Europe as a whole is deemed safe enough to let people to come back.

Deputy Director, BI, Shri Dinesh Adhikari: No, we decided it as a block and regarding Indians coming back, Sir I think you would be able to tell.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: Let me reiterate again, what I said as far as the evacuation of foreigners who are stranded in India are concerned, it will be on a request basis but this has been so in the case of now Poland. We have given clearance for the polish flights to come to India, to take their national back. That has already happened successfully. Specific requests of the countries, have been considered on a case by case basis. Now in the case of Indian nationals stranded there, we believe it’s safe for them and for their near and dear ones that they stay put there. Because, we don’t know. You may be unwillingly carrying the carrier of it. Then you might spread it. So, we should be… you may appear not to be having any symptoms but who knows, fourteen days later that symptom show up and then there is a panic on the home front and the near and dear also get affected. So, that's we have to be very very careful and sensitive to spreading this around you know. So, that’s one priority. The second one is, now international flights. What will happen to the international flights? I think we need to wait for the advisory to come out to explain exactly what are the how we are dealing with the situation. So you know, there was one advisory before and subsequently there will be other advisories depending on how the situation is.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Please try to understand that it’s an evolving situation and it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen tomorrow. We have shared at this forum that it is being monitored at a high level. You have a group of ministers, you have a committee of secretaries and taking into account various developments in the last twenty four hours or perhaps more. Our considered decisions are taken. So please wait for the advisory. If any decisions are coming out I think it will come out through an advisory.

Question: Since the coming in effect of no Visa policy so that people do not come there, in India, how much has been there a decrease in the number of foreigners coming to India? I think you can give the data Sir.

Deputy Director, BI, Shri Dinesh Adhikari:
if you see on twentieth February we had around sixty three thousand two hundred and seventy five Indians who came to India and as of yesterday the figure has dropped down to forty one thousand hundred and thirty six of the Indians’ arrival. Foreigners we have dropped down from… in this period from twentieth February was thirty-three thousand and now it is twelve hundred forty five.

Question: It has been reported that Nepal has consulted India for putting the complete restriction of the people’s movement across the border and India has told Nepal to wait for the one day, for just one or two days. What’s the update on that? And if that kind of decision will be taken, what will be the fate of the people who are going back to their native places from… you know the people who are working in India, because it almost takes six or seven days to get back to their borders.

Deputy Director, BI, Shri Dinesh Adhikari: All the ICP’s whoever on the Indo-Nepal border, they are the Nepali citizen as well as the Indian citizen. They are moving freely. We have adequate medical teams there who are checking the incoming and outgoing and there are no restrictions for the Indian and Nepalese citizens who due to the treaty which we have enjoy.

Question: Sir, Nepal has asked, requested India. Why don’t we put the complete restrictions on the movement of the people across the border? Is there any update on that yesterday is being reported that Nepal has asked the Indians?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, whatever decisions are being taken, you know, even on the ICP, the decisions are being conveyed through an advisory. So, let us not get into what is being discussed, behind the scenes, let us just wait for the advisory, let us not decapsulate too much. If a decision is being taken, as I said, It’s an evolving situation. If the situation demands to move in a certain direction, that has to be done. I’ll take the last maybe three four questions because they have another briefing at five O’clock.

Question: Just wanted to know about the status of people stranded at airports, Heathrow, Schiphol; they’ve many Indian students who stranded because universities shut, also Indonesia and Philippines.

I wanted to know about the twenty-six thousand Indian nationals who are reportedly coming from the Gulf countries. Is these reports correct? And what are the arrangements that have been made to quarantine them once they land in India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Aarti, the second part, I think, you will have to refer… there is a briefing at five O’clock. So, you know, you have to ask the health authorities and State authorities. But the first part, we will answer. Shalinder!

Question(Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation): Sir, whether any decision has been taken to recall the soldiers serving under UN peace keeping force who are travelling abroad on duty? Will they be brought back?

Question (Questioned in Hindi, approximate translation):

Sir, the Indians arriving from abroad are being screened on the airport. But from there onwards they are travelling to their states, for example in case of some students from universities, around 100-150 have arrived yesterday. They are not being screened further. In the societies close to us, where they are going, there is an atmosphere of panic. They are not getting them tested after reaching there. Is the test mandatory for them? When other helplines of the states are contacted, then no teams from their side visit them for checkup. There is an atmosphere of fear in the scocieties.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: See, it is like that, that I have already told you that we will reply to those questions which are in the perspective of MEA. Lot many advisories are being issued which are applicable to our internal issues. Then if you, submit the information, then you can say.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: No, I think the health-related issues, may request you to address to the Health Ministry because there will be another briefing later subsequently. This question can be directed to them. Because they will reply even more precise and accurate. Let me take the other questions. You like to add?

Deputy Director, BI, Shri Dinesh Adhikari: Yeah. All the Indians who have coming in, we are giving the data to their respective states. The State Health authorities are contacting them and monitoring them. So, be rest assured who have come back from any of the foreign countries, even if they have not been quarantine at the airport, because he had tested negative at the airport. So, they would be, the state authority would be touched. Details on this in the Health Ministry of shells will be able to take. Thank you!

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: Yeah. So, the question on the stranded Indians in Beirut airports now, that’s one specifically raised. Now we need to understand whether the flights that took off respect to the embargo which came into effect. So, we have to see that’s the correct way. Because some airlines have taking the passengers and leaving them in the transit area. Notwithstanding, our missions are talking to the local authorities, trying to understand how to deal with that. Be rest assured again you know, all supports will be given and case by case bases, we will deal with the situations. In terms of Manila and Singapore, the two cases you raised, in case of Singapore, all these students in Singapore that they are left by now, because the mission and ambassadors in consultation with the civil aviation are here and MEA, we work closely with the local authorities and they have been successfully lifted and they should be heading home any moments. The Manila, again the embargo came into effect but some people leave behind, before the embargo but some people could not leave after before the embargo. They remain there. But our mission contacted them, they facilited them to go back to places. Because I think, the accommodation of the local universities, authorities are still open for the students. So, that’s what we understand and every help that needed was given by the mission. The ambassadors have taken great interest in ensuring the safely and security. We believe that the situations are under control in Manila. So, Yeah. So, Heathrow and Schiphol, these are situations, feedback we are getting now, but we don’t have specific details of how many Indians are there. That’s what I said. You need to look into the aspect of whether the flights are respected the embargo or not. You know it is not right for airlines to lift the passengers and leave them in the midway in the transit. And that’s not fair for Indian standard. So, these challenges we will be dealing with specifically. In terms of Gulf numbers, I don’t have the twenty thousand of Indians warning of come back. I don’t know whether this number came to you. We don’t have… yet have clarity on that. Probably we’ll take some feedback from our mission in the Gulf region.

AS, Shri Dammu Ravi: On the UN mission, personnel at into the extent possible as you know, the previous advisory is very clear that exemption categories are the UN, the Diplomatic and the Personnel, project workers and the crew. So, this is a very clear category where exempted. But some UN mission who have gone been able to come back. But again, our advisories unless and until really necessary for them to undertake travel, they should not go out. So, that is now very clear for them. I don’t think we have had any incidents in last two three days of any UN mission have stuck anywhere else. So, if there are, we will take up.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Friends, thank you very much! There is a briefing immediately after this at National Media Center. Thank you all for joining!


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